BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula have a strong desire to see the Bills stay in Buffalo, and aren’t ruling out making a bid to buy the NFL franchise.
In saying they’re following the Bills’ sale process, the Pegulas declined to go into further detail of their intentions, in a prepared statement released by Sabres vice president Michael Gilbert on Friday.
"Like everyone else in this community, they have a strong desire to have the Buffalo Bills remain a centerpiece of this region," Gilbert said. "Accordingly, they have been following the developments involving the sale of the Bills."
Out of respect for the sale process, Gilbert said the owners will not be issuing any further comments.
The statement was released in response to numerous reports of the Pegulas having serious interest in purchasing the Bills, who are on the market after the team’s owner and founder Ralph Wilson died in March.
The latest development came on Thursday, when a person familiar with the sale process told The Associated Press the Pegulas were among prospective buyers who received a non-disclosure agreement and background on the Bills from a law firm representing Wilson’s estate.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sale process has not been made public.
Filling out the non-disclosure agreement would be the next step in providing interested groups full access to the Bills’ financial data in order to begin formulating bids.
The Bills were last valued by Forbes to be worth $870 million. But their sale price could go much higher because NFL teams rarely go on the market.
The Pegulas made their fortune in the natural gas industry, after Terry Pegula sold off many of his company’s assets for $4.7 billion to Royal Dutch Shell in 2010.
His net worth was last estimated by Forbes to be $3.3 billion, but that figure could rise after his company reached a deal to sell off 75,000 acres of land in Ohio and West Virginia to Oklahoma-based American Energy Partners last week.
Pegula has spent the past four years going on a major spending spree focusing on two of his passions: hockey and Penn State, his alma mater.
In 2010, he donated more than $100 million to Penn State to build a hockey arena and establish a Division I program.
In February 2011, he purchased the Sabres, the team he became a fan of in the 1970s.
The Pegulas have since shown a commitment to helping spur Buffalo’s economy by building a $172 million hockey/entertainment complex called HarborCenter across from the Sabres’ downtown arena.
The Bills’ long-term future in western New York remains a question mark.
Though their lease essentially ties them to playing at their current home through the 2019 season, there are concerns the Bills could eventually relocate under a new owner. Toronto and Los Angeles are considered potential landing spots.
People familiar with the sale have previously said an ownership candidate could be identified by the end of July, and the sale approved by NFL owners as early as the league’s meetings in October.