Toronto Bills group asked yet again to clarify non-relocation intentions
Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. (Reuters files)
On a day of game-changing, "weirdo world" developments in the Buffalo Bills sale, the Toronto group was asked yet again to clarify its non-relocation intentions, QMI Agency has learned.
By the end of business on Thursday, the bidder still had not been invited to the final phase of the sale, a source said.
Comprising rocker Jon Bon Jovi, MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and the Rogers family, the group on Tuesday had resubmitted its first-round, non-binding bid for the NFL club.
Morgan Stanley, the investment bank conducting the sale of the Bills for the trust of the late Ralph Wilson, last week had rejected the trio's initial non-binding bid, because it was uncompetitively low, sources said -- perhaps less than $900 million.
As well, too much doubt existed within the trust, Morgan Stanley and the sale's law firm, Proskauer Rose, regarding the Toronto trio's newly adopted intention to keep the NFL team in Western New York.
In inviting the Toronto group to resubmit, the trust and its transaction team asked the trio to provide greater assurances that it plans to keep the Bills long-term in the Buffalo area, a source said.
Whatever the group submitted in Tuesday's do-over did not prove satisfactory. The group was asked to "clarify statements," a source said. The trust and its transaction team have not yet decided the group's fate.
Earlier in the day, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News and John Wawrow of Associated Press both reported that the Toronto group has a meeting scheduled next week with the seller. That might well wind up being the case.
Early last month, Morgan Stanley had set aside this week and next for such management presentations with finalist bidders.
In a bombshell report on Thursday morning, Graham said such meetings might extend to a third week, because as many as eight finalists are now in the mix.
That suggests up to five new potential purchasers not only have submitted first-round bids but already are, or quickly will be, approved as finalists.
In addition to the three who submitted bids by the ostensible July 29 deadline -- namely, the Toronto group and multi-billionaires Terry Pegula and Donald Trump -- only one other new bidder's name was confirmed Thursday.
That's Tom Golisano, a payroll-systems multi-billionaire originally from Rochester, N.Y.
Like Pegula, Golisano for years has stated emphatically the Bills must remain in Buffalo. QMI Agency was first to report in May that Golisano would bid, and reported last month that he intended not only to still bid, but bid alone and aggressively.
Perhaps chagrined by the strict bidding rules set down by Morgan Stanley and Proskauer Rose, Golisano declined to submit by the July 29 deadline.
Graham was first to report Thursday that Golisano is in and, additionally, that Trump had his management meeting on Wednesday in Detroit. QMI Agency sources confirm both reports.
Graham and Wawrow also both wrote that the family of Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is in league with one of the new, mystery bidders (perhaps noted bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach, a former Western New Yorker now based in Los Angeles who loves the Bills), that Pegula is scheduled to have his meeting with the seller next week in Manhattan, and that Bills president and CEO Russ Brandon will be among the presenters at all meetings with finalists.
The fact that Morgan Stanley has had to actively recruit new bidders to the process -- after extending its July 29 bid deadline -- has alarmed and disappointed many in that realm of the financial world, sources indicate.
News that up to five new, finalist bidders might suddenly be in the mix was met with no small amount of skepticism.
"I don't know if it's real. We're in weirdo world at this point," said one informed source close to the Bills sale process.
"It's all crap," another charged flatly.
Adding to the skepticism, by late Thursday rumblings began to circulate that no management meeting took place on Thursday, because an unnamed "L.A. guy" never showed up.
So, thanks largely to those informative reports out of Buffalo, your Bills-sale scorecard looked like this by late Thursday night:
Two known finalist bidders, one new bidder, one bidder in limbo (Bon Jovi/Toronto) and perhaps up to four additional, unknown bidders.