AP sources: Golisano expresses plans to buy Bills
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Former Sabres owner Tom Golisano has met with Buffalo Bills officials and public leaders, and informed them of his interest in purchasing the NFL franchise, said people involved with the negotiations.
One person said Wednesday that Golisano also has had talks with developer Scott Congel to be his partner in the potential ownership group. The person added that their discussions have included the proposal of building a new stadium in West Seneca, about a 10-minute drive from the Bills’ current home, Ralph Wilson Stadium. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because Golisano has not publicly announced his plans.
The land where the proposed stadium would be built belongs to Pyramid Management Group, which is owned by Robert Congel, Scott’s father. The Syracuse-based company is one of the largest shopping mall developers in the northeast.
A person at Golisano’s office told the AP Wednesday that he has no comment regarding the Bills. Golisano also failed to return a message left on his cellphone.
Congel declined to comment about a potential partnership with Golisano in an interview with The Buffalo News published on the newspaper’s website Wednesday evening. Congel did confirm he has made plans to redevelop the Shops at West Seneca land, which would include the potential of building a 60,000-plus seat stadium.
The Bills are on the market after the team’s Hall of Fame owner and founder, Ralph Wilson, died in March. Wilson’s estate hired an attorneys and an investment banking firm last week to oversee the sale. They are expected to begin contacting prospective ownership groups by the end of next month.
A new owner could be identified by as early as the end of July. The new owner would require approval from 24 of the NFL’s 31 owners.
New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump has already announced his interest in buying the team. Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly has also said he has had talks to partner with numerous ownership groups.
Golisano’s entry into the bidding process does not come as a surprise.
He first discussed the possibility of buying the Bills not long after purchasing the Sabres out of bankruptcy in 2004. Golisano said he would especially become involved in an ownership group if there were any fears of the team relocating.
Wilson’s death has raised concerns about the franchise’s long-term future because of the possibility the team could be sold and eventually relocated to a more prosperous market such as Toronto.
Golisano sold the Sabres in 2011. Later that year, he became involved in a group that failed in a bid to purchase the Major League Baseball Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 72-year-old Golisano made his fortune founding Rochester-based Paychex, a payroll processing firm. His net worth was most recently estimated by Forbes to be at about $2 billion. He’s from Rochester, but now makes his home in Florida.
He came to prominence in New York in the late 1990s, when he made three unsuccessful gubernatorial runs.
Congel was previously a principal at Pyramid. He has most recently run into difficulties attempting to redevelop the Medley Centre mall outside of Rochester. The mall is now vacant.
Earlier this month, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Monroe County officials voted to declare that Congel was in default of his tax deal by failing to invest at least $165 million to redevelop the property.
Pyramid’s holdings, by comparison, have been lucrative with the company estimated to bring in estimated $5 billion in annual revenue from its 17 properties.
The land the Shops at West Seneca are located upon are partially undeveloped and on the site of a former mall.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said a new stadium would be the next step in securing the team’s long-term future.
New York state has also hired an architectural and design firm to identify between three or four sites across the region that could serve as the team’s new home.
The Bills are essentially locked into playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the end of the 2019 season under the terms of the lease the franchise reached with the state and county in December 2012.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL