Pegulas reach definitive agreement to buy Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Ralph Wilson's legacy to keep the Bills in Buffalo will be preserved after NHL Sabres owner Terry and Kim Pegula reached what was called "a definitive agreement" to purchase the NFL franchise on Tuesday.
The deal was announced in a statement issued by the trust overseeing the late Hall of Fame owner's estate.
"Ralph would have been pleased with the sale of the team to the Terry Pegula family, who have been so committed to Buffalo and the western New York region," Wilson's widow and Bills controlling owner Mary Wilson said. "He loved his team and he cherished the fans, and his legacy will remain for all-time."
Wilson was the team's founder and sole owner, who often spoke out and voted against franchise relocation. And the selection of the Pegulas, who have maintained a commitment to keep the Bills in the region, comes as a huge relief to team fans who have expressed concern about their beloved franchise moving following Wilson's death in March.
"It is gratifying to reassure these great fans that the two franchises, so important to our region, are here to stay," Terry Pegula said in a statement released by the Sabres. "Ralph Wilson left an indelible mark on our community and we will strive every day to honor his legacy."
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Pegulas reach definitive agreement to buy Bills
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The deal was reached a day after the Pegulas were among at least three prospective groups to submit binding bids to purchase the team. And it comes days before the Bills (1-0) play their home-opener against Miami on Sunday.
Though the Bills were valued at $935 million, the sale price was expected to exceed $1 billion.
The sale is subject to being approved by a three-quarters majority of the NFL's 31 owners, which is expected to come at league meetings on Oct. 8.
The Pegulas, who live in Florida, have established roots in adopting Buffalo as their hometown since purchasing the Sabres in February 2011. Terry Pegula is from Pennsylvania and became a fan of the Sabres in the mid-1970s. Kim is from the nearby Rochester area.
Their commitment to Buffalo is becoming more evident with the construction of a privately funded $172 million downtown hockey/entertainment complex called HarborCenter that is nearing completion.
Under NFL ownership rules, the Pegulas are allowed to own both the Bills and the Sabres because they are located in the same market.
The Pegulas have a net worth of more than $3.5 billion, and made their fortune in the natural gas industry,
They had the backing of local business leaders and public officials, and were regarded as the front-runner to buy the Bills once they first expressed interest in the team in late May.
"Today's announcement is great news for western New York, the Bills, and their passionate fans, who will now be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief," U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said. "The Pegulas are the perfect choice to carry on Ralph Wilson's indelible legacy."
In closing in on buying the Bills, the Pegulas beat out much higher-profile candidates such as New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi, who led a group of Toronto-based businessmen, and New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Trump maintained his interest and had the deep pockets to buy the Bills, but lost out once the sale price rose beyond what he considered to be a reasonable acquisition.
As for Bon Jovi, his group faltered because it failed to address numerous concerns about its plans to potentially relocate the franchise north of the border. The Toronto group was rounded out by Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and the Rogers family, which controls Rogers Communications.
The Bills' lease agreement, which was signed off by Wilson and approved by NFL owners last year, became a serious obstacle because of a strict non-relocation clause that essentially prevented the team from moving before the 2020 season.
The AP first reported in July that Rogers conducted a feasibility study that identified at least three potential stadium sites in the Toronto area that could potentially serve as the Bills new home.
News of the Pegulas' pending purchase was celebrated across the city. One fan was so emotional that he began crying while discussing what the Pegulas purchase meant to him on Buffalo's WGR-Radio.
Other fans expressed relief.
"One of the saddest thing for me to consider was that someday we may have had children and I would never had a chance to share what (the Bills) are like with them," said Dale Paradowski, a Bills season ticketholder, who is getting married next week. "This purchase isn't just a transaction. It's a symbol of a city and those who love it."