Bon Jovi/Toronto group on ‘life support’ and mulling whether to proceed in Buffalo Bills sale process, sources say

Jon Bon Jovi and his Toronto backers are reassessing whether even to continue in their pursuit of the Buffalo Bills, Sun Media has learned.

Their bid has been on the rocks for weeks, and no one within the group is optimistic they’ll wind up buying the NFL team, according to two sources in the position to know.

The group cancelled a scheduled tour of Ralph Wilson Stadium on Wednesday.

“They’re hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” one source said. “The bid’s on life support.”

It has nothing to do with the announced departure Thursday of CEO Tim Leiweke from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, whose role in the bid has been overstated (most often by Leiweke himself).

But it has everything to do with (1) the group’s limited bidding power with Bon Jovi in the lead, and (2) lingering doubts about whether the trust would sell the club to a group that continues to refuse to commit to keeping the Bills in Western New York long-term.

A source said the Toronto group bowed out of a planned tour of the Bills’ stadium in Orchard Park on Wednesday, and has no plans to reschedule it. The tour is a scheduled part of the due diligence process for all finalists, in what Morgan Stanley — the investment bank conducting the sale for the trust of founding Bills owner late Ralph Wilson — calls the “final phase.”

There are three other known finalists: multi-billionaires Terry Pegula, Donald Trump and Tom Golisano.

The Toronto bid group comprises rocker Bon Jovi (as prospective controlling owner, with about a 30% stake) and his Toronto background investors, each with about 35% shares: MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers and his family, whose trust runs Canada’s Rogers Communication Inc. empire.

Sources say the trio are taking the next week or so to assess where their bid is at, and to discuss what they could possibly do at this stage to mount a formidable, effective bid.

Morgan Stanley tried to help in that regard, sources said Monday, in suggesting last week that Bon Jovi approach Buffalo legend Jim Kelly, the franchise’s Hall of Fame quarterback, about joining their bid. Kelly and his investment partner, Jeffrey Gundlach, hope to latch on as minority investors with another bid.

Kelly and Bon Jovi met, but Kelly rebuffed the rocker’s request over concerns his group would eventually relocate the team to Toronto, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reported on Sunday.

As constituted, the Toronto group is limited financially by the amount of cash the rocker can pull together to meet the 30% controlling-owner threshold that the NFL demands.

The group’s maximum bid — which sources say is somewhere between $1 billion and $1.2 billion — isn’t nearly enough to compete with Mr. Money Bags, Pegula, the cash-flush multi-billionaire who owns the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. And Bon Jovi, Tanenbaum and Rogers know it.

Remember, their group already was dead once — for almost a week, after submitting an uncompetitively low first bid on July 29. Even after being allowed to resubmit a higher opening, non-binding bid, and being asked to more clearly express a non-relocation intention, it wasn’t until the Aug. 9-10 weekend that Morgan Stanley allowed the group to enter the sale’s final phase.

A week ago Tuesday, the group had its first face-to-face meeting in Manhattan with sale principals: members of the trust, senior executives of the Bills, Morgan Stanley and the trust’s legal adviser Proskauer Rose. It was a desultory meeting that further lowered the Toronto trio’s hopes.

As Sun Media reported on Monday of this week, do not interpret Morgan Stanley’s match-making attempt with Kelly as any expression of favouritism toward the Bon Jovi/Toronto bid.

The banker merely had this hope: to assuage Buffalonians’ concerns about the Toronto group’s suspected relocation intentions by teaming it with Mr. Bills-Can’t-Move himself, so as to convince other bidders — especially Pegula — that the beleaguered group is indeed a viable threat to win the bidding.

Right now it is not.

One source said that barring a significant development, or reformation of the group, the Toronto trio is likelier to disband than submit a binding, definitive bid early next month along with the other finalists.

 

One thought on “Bon Jovi/Toronto group on ‘life support’ and mulling whether to proceed in Buffalo Bills sale process, sources say

  1. CL

    I heard that Pegula and the other bidders initially offered over 1 Billion for the Bills but then they realized that EJ was the STARTING qb, after that the bids dropped below 1 Dollar. I Kidd… I Kidd… I like EJ because he gives me something… TO POOP ON!!!

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