Exclusive: Rogers won’t lead 2nd Toronto group bidding for Bills … and Jaws’ comments on Bon Jovi signal that that bid group’s relocation intentions might be dead

Edward Rogers III will not lead a second Toronto bid group aiming to buy the Buffalo Bills, Sun Media has learned.

And the one Toronto group there is apparently has begun to get out the message that it will not — repeat, not — relocate the team from Western New York.

Quite the news day.

First, Rogers. According to Sun Media sources, the deputy chairman of the Canadian telecommunications and media empire that bears his family’s name has decided not to lead his own bid group, as has been speculated, reported and even presumed by some.

Rogers was not immediately available to comment on Monday night.

Even though the Rogers family fortune was estimated last fall by Canadian Business magazine to be $7.6 billion, two sources said Rogers himself was not in a position to be a sole bidder for the NFL club.

Last summer Forbes.com pegged the Bills’ value at $870 million but the team probably will sell for more than $1 billion.

By NFL rules, the principal owner in any group must have a minimum 30% stake, and only up to $200 million of the entire purchase price can be financed — meaning the rest must be paid in cash.

Not all billionaires are that financially fluid, even multi-billionaires.

Rogers had mulled the idea of leading his own group following the death of founding Bills owner Ralph Wilson on March 25, but in June he chose not to proceed, Sun Media has been reliably informed.

Not just since Wilson’s death but since the ill-fated Bills-in-Toronto series debuted in 2008, Western New Yorkers have presumed — and some news organizations there reported in the spring — that a Rogers-led bid for the Bills would be likely and formidable too (because of the family’s massive net worth). Even hard to beat.

Sun Media has never reported that a separate Rogers bid was likely, only that he might bid on his own, or join the one known Toronto bid group — fronted by rocker Jon Bon Jovi and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum.

It is not known whether the 45-year-old Rogers — son of the late Ted Rogers, who founded Rogers Communications Inc. — might yet wind up as one of the minority investors under Bon Jovi and Tanenbaum.

As for Bon Jovi, a longtime friend of his, Ron Jaworski, told WGR 550-AM on Monday morning and later Buffalo area reporters not only that the rocker has no plans to relocate the Bills from Buffalo, should he wind up buying the team, but that he never has.

I reported exclusively in April – on solid information from a Toronto source in the position to know — that the Bon Jovi/Tanenbaum group’s intention was to buy the Bills and eventually move the team to Toronto. I stand by the report.

The group’s once unwavering intention apparently has changed in recent weeks.

Jaworski’s comments carry weight. He and Bon Jovi from 2004-08 were among the original owners of the Arena Football League’s franchise in Philadelphia, the Soul.

So who better than a respected former NFLer originally from the Buffalo area to begin dispersing the message that Bon Jovi and his Toronto group actually intend to keep the team right where it is?

And isn’t it interesting that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Bon Jovi had a very public lunch meeting in Manhattan just two weeks ago.

Perhaps, as some are speculating in Western New York and Sun Media is now hearing too, each bidder as part of the process will be asked to explain its long-term plan for making the team prosper in Western New York.

In which case, if true, Bon Jovi, Tanenbaum and their group of co-investors could not possibly bid on the team by reiterating their original, long-held intention — one revealed publicly in November by MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke in a Toronto Star interview — to buy the Bills and move them to Canada’s most populous city.

Cue the course change.

Not that they’ll have an easy go of it. Think they can convince hundreds of thousands of torch-and-pitchfork-carrying Bills fans that they’re sincere? Good luck.

Yet a 180 was inevitable.

As we have been insisting since April, the Bills in all likelihood will not be sold to any group intent on relocating the team at first legal chance — to Toronto, to L.A. or elsewhere.

And the first chance, as we reported March 26 and keep insisting, cannot come until either 2020 (when there’s a low-cost out in the team’s otherwise iron-clad 10-year lease at county-owned Ralph Wilson Stadium) or 2023 (at the lease’s expiry).

For 24 of the 31 other NFL owners to approve a sale to a relocation aggregation would necessarily subject the franchise to five — or, alternatively, eight — years of lame-duck existence in Buffalo. Jilted, livid ticket-holders would abandon the team by the thousands in the interim, which would embarrass the league.

There’s no way the NFL would allow that to happen, especially under the shrewd leadership of a savvy, pothole-avoiding, legacy-conscious commissioner who hails from Western New York.

If you’re Bon Jovi, Tanenbaum and their co-investors, it would have been a helluva $1-billion-plus gamble to have nothing more than a hope that, years later, 24 of 31 owners would approve your relocation bid.

So maybe, yeah, it’s better to keep the team in Western New York from the get-go. Or at least promise as much.

If this indeed is the new course of Toronto’s one and only Buffalo Bills bid group, it’s like I’ve been saying all along.

The Bills aren’t leaving Western New York this decade, and probably for a lot longer than that. Even to Toronto.

For those counting at home, that’s two doomed Bills-in-Toronto ventures to die an overdue death this year.

 

 

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