Already there had been plenty of buzz this summer that Jon Bon Jovi, at various times, had looked into abandoning his Toronto partners — to instead bid on the Buffalo Bills with American investors.
The latest whopper to hit the rumour mill turns out to be true. That the front man of the Toronto bid group held discussions this past week with Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly about joining forces.
What that might mean for his Toronto investors remained unclear Sunday night.
Tipped about it by two sources on Saturday morning, Sun Media can confirm via multiple sources the news that Tim Graham of the Buffalo News was first to confirm late Saturday afternoon, that arguably the most admired man in Western New York, Kelly, has at minimum entertained the notion of teaming on a Bills bid with the most hated man in the region, Bon Jovi.
Many in the Buffalo area still refuse to believe it.
Kelly’s wife Jill tweeted this out soon after Graham’s report hit the web: “To think that anyone would think for a minute that Jim would ever link up with ownership that would move our BELOVED BILLS is ludicrous.”
That statement, coupled with the fact that Kelly by early Sunday night still had not publicly denied talking to Bon Jovi, opens a few compelling lanes of conjecture as to what’s really going on here.
Maybe Kelly already has decided against the partnership.
Maybe Kelly is convinced the rocker and his Toronto investors are sincere in wanting now to keep the Bills in Buffalo, although he’d be the first in the region to believe it.
Or maybe Kelly was told by Bon Jovi he’s on his own now. Indeed for his part, maybe Bon Jovi was investigating whether Kelly’s newly secured partner — in joining forces with another bidder or investing in a new bid group entirely, bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach — is rich enough to provide the remaining 70%, after Bon Jovi’s 30% controlling-partner share. In other words, maybe Bon Jovi wanted to know whether he could replace his current financial back-fillers, MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and the Rogers family, with Gundlach. In that scenario Kelly would not be allying himself with any Toronto partners, see.
As Graham observed, however, the fact Kelly and Bon Jovi have considered the unlikely liaison at all speaks to how desperate each has become to grab a share of NFL ownership, and with this team — the rocker as controlling partner, the ex-NFLer as a gifted small-slice partner.
A number of other vital points remained unclear on Sunday evening:
1. Whether Bon Jovi had received permission from the transaction team conducting the sale of the Bills — investment bank Morgan Stanley and law firm Proskauer Rose — to talk with Kelly in the first place. The strict non-disclosure agreement signed by all potential bidders prohibits such discourse.
2. Whether Bon Jovi had informed Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers (point person for the Rogers family) before reaching out to Kelly.
3. Whether Tanenbaum and Rogers would even be willing to surrender portions of their roughly 35% investment stakes in the bid to accommodate Gundlach/Kelly.
It’s telling that Bon Jovi reached out to Kelly within days, or even hours, of his group’s unpromising, desultory official meeting on Tuesday in Manhattan with the sellers: the late Ralph Wilson’s trust, Morgan Stanley and Proskauer Rose.
That Bon Jovi did this lends enough credibility to finally report the many rumours and insider tips QMI Agency had heard (and not reported) since June: that Bon Jovi at various times had been looking to latch on with other bid partners — either to replace his Toronto investors or to augment them.
In early July, two credible, reliable sources independent of each other told me they’d heard that Bon Jovi, alone, had recently approached one or more American-side bidders about perhaps abandoning Tanenbaum (this was before Rogers joined) to join up with one of them instead. Reliable other sources in the position to know, however, flatly denied those rumours. Perhaps because those sources were unaware. The outreaches would have happened at about the time when it dawned on Bon Jovi and Tanenbaum that, in order to get the team, they’d have to do a 180 and tell everyone henceforth their plan is to keep the Bills in Buffalo.
In late July I was told by a Canadian source that Bon Jovi had talked with Western New York developer Scott Congel about adding him and his West Seneca stadium plan to the Toronto group. Didn’t happen. Probably it was that someone put 2 and 2 together and came up with 10, after learning the Toronto group in late July had met with Congel about his stadium plan.
Just this past Wednesday I was told that Bon Jovi was for sure going to dump his Toronto partners to team with Tom Golisano, the former Buffalo Sabres owner and payroll-systems billionaire who finally submitted a bid on the Bills just over a week ago. But someone in the position to know told me that that tip was “complete nonsense. Bon Jovi is tied to (Tanenbaum and the Rogers family). He might prefer other partners at this stage who are not Toronto based, but he is stuck with these guys.”
Stuck indeed, as long as the group exists.
Regardless of any non-disclosure agreement, syndicate bidders in any billion-dollar purchase cannot just up and leave current partners whenever the mood strikes them. Such partners legally attach themselves to one another — weeks, even months, before submitting a first, non-binding bid. That’s one reason they have all those lawyers.
So the Toronto trio are legally bound to one another. The only way Bon Jovi could join with someone else would be with both of his partners’ permission — in other words, if both agreed to dissolve their bid group. Perhaps that’s about to happen.
It became clear in late April that the Bon Jovi/Toronto group would have little chance of winning this auction — mainly because of all those issues surrounding the Bills’ restrictive lease and non-relocation agreement with the county and state at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Bon Jovi appears to have finally accepted that fate, and is acting on it.