Who will buy the Buffalo Bills? That is a question I have had put to me countless times over the past two weeks and of course only a small, select group of people at One Bills Drive and Detroit know the answer. If I had to handicap the race, right now I would put the Jacobs family in the lead.

Jeremy M. Jacobs is the Chairman and CEO of Delaware North and all of it’s subsidiaries. One of those subsidiaries is Sportservice which runs the concessions at Ralph Wilson Stadium and six other NFL stadiums. In all Sportservice holds the concession rights for twenty-eight professional sports teams.

The Jacobs family also own the Boston Bruins and have a partnership with the Boston Red Sox in owning the New England Sports Network (NESN). Obviously the Jacobs know their way around the big leagues.

When names of possible suitors for the Buffalo Bills were thrown around in the past the Jacobs family was almost overlooked. More prominent names like Jim Kelly, Tom Golisano, Terry Pegula and now Donald Trump had risen to the top. Looking at the resumes for all the candidates, Jeremy Jacobs and his sons have forgotten more about running a professional sports franchise than anyone else in the hunt.

Issues regarding ownership of the Bruins and casinos have been brought up as possible stumbling blocks to buying the Bills. Yet, I believe that could all be worked out by corporate lawyers and with the transfer of properties within the family. I do not see any of those as unworkable obstacles for ownership in the NFL.

I do know that Jim Kelly has a group behind him to buy the Bills. I also know that Kelly’s relationship with Ralph Wilson gave him an inside track and possibly the right of first refusal when the time came. Unfortunately Jim’s health has obviously complicated his involvement in the purchase of the team right now.

Speculation has been that Donald Trump may be the money man behind Kelly. It makes sense since Jim has such a great relationship with Trump and almost played for him in 1986 when the USFL Houston Gamblers merged with the New Jersey Generals. Now Donald Trump has been a great help to the Kelly family as Jim undergoes radiation and chemo treatments in New York. Kelly and Trump would make a dynamic ownership group, but right now I feel Jim’s battle with cancer has his priorities elsewhere.

Tom Golisano is a Rochester native, but now lives in Florida full time. When he owned the Sabres he distanced himself somewhat from the team after the first two years. I do not think at this stage of his life that Tom Golisano has the passion or interest in becoming an NFL owner.

Terry Pegula obviously has the money, but his experience with the Sabres shows that he is not ready for the NFL. The Sabres were a passion of Pegula when he was a younger man and a rabid fan of the team. I believe when the opportunity presented itself he jumped at the chance to own his favorite hockey team. Now however, he has found that losing is no fun in any league and his public appearances are few and far between.

Pegula, like Golisano, is also a full-time resident of Florida, reportedly for tax reasons. That would mean he has to be careful as to how much time he spends in New York. Owning the Buffalo Bills then would create a  dilemma because he would have to chose which team to spend more time around. The Sabres would win that tug of war every time.

Next year at this time we will all know who the new owner of the Buffalo Bills will be. So right now I’m guessing the people who sell you your beer at the Stadium will be the same ones who are signing the players contracts.


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