Okay, pardon me for being the latest to chime in with a Livin’ On A Prayer reference, but that is exactly what the hopes are at present for Jon Bon Jovi to buy the Buffalo Bills with the help of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Larry Tanenbaum, Tim Leiweke or maybe Edward Rogers and family.
However, there is some serious manoeuvring going on to make those hopes come true.
This is especially so at MLSE, which would love to hitch its wagon to
whichever individual or individuals manage to buy Buffalo’s NFL team
after its 95-year-old owner Ralph Wilson passes away.
prevent corporations from owning even part of its teams but they do not
prevent enterprising companies from building and running their stadiums.
and Leiweke, the chairman and president of MLSE, respectively, are so
eager to get involved they reassigned one of their senior executives not
long ago, according to someone close to the company.
who was MLSE’s chief facilities and live entertainment officer, was put
in charge of two special projects. These projects are so important to
Tanenbaum and Leiweke that Justina Klein was recently brought back for a
second stint at MLSE to do Hunter’s old job.
Hunter is now in
charge of two things – redesigning BMO Field to accommodate both Toronto
FC, MLSE’s soccer team, and the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, who would
be most affected by Hunter’s second project. And that task is to design
an NFL-style stadium to accommodate the Bills. So far, we’re told,
there is a design for a stadium that would cost $600-million but our
informants say that won’t get much these days and the final number will
be closer to $1-billion plus another $1-billion (U.S.) or so to buy the
Bills, making this a $2-billion play.
The reason the Bills are
expected to go for that much, aside from the inherent worth of NFL
franchises, was laid out by an investment banker of our acquaintance who
has handled dozens of sales of NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball
clubs. He found the notion of Bon Jovi buying an NFL club amusing and
said simply that when Wilson dies his heirs will hold an auction and
sell to the highest bidder.
Wilson’s family has no interest in
owning the Bills because it will be on the hook for many millions in
estate taxes. To keep the team, pay the taxes and then run it would
require big loans, so the course will be to maximize the price on the
Bills, pay the taxes and keep the hundreds of millions left over.
takes this deal out of the league of Bon Jovi, who is undoubtedly
lobbying hard for a team and has some interesting friends aside from
Tanenbaum and Leiweke, such as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
But NFL bylaws say the majority owner has to have at least 30 per cent
of the equity in the franchise.
Since Bon Jovi’s net worth is
estimated to be around $300-million (U.S.), this means writing a cheque
for the equal of his net worth is not possible. Hence Bon Jovi’s
chumminess with Tanenbaum and Leiweke, whose daughter Francesca is
reported to be working for the rock star in his quest.
those who know all the characters in this drama think the real player in
this could be Edward Rogers, whose family is behind Rogers
Communications Inc., which is the co-majority owner of MLSE along with
BCE Inc. Rogers Communications has been chasing an NFL team for years
with the help of Tanenbaum, who owns the other 25 per cent of MLSE.
Rogers family’s net worth is estimated at $6.41-billion, which dwarfs
even Tanenbaum and makes Bon Jovi a small player. Some insiders see
Edward Rogers, 44, emerging as the majority owner in a bid with
Tanenbaum and Bon Jovi, who is certainly handy as a front man for now,
taking minority stakes. Indeed, there are already whispers of friction
among the trio over just who will be the major player.
problems lie ahead, including whether or not the NFL will allow the new
owners to move the Bills to Toronto or maintain a connection with
There is also the matter of the CFL and the Argos. It
looks as though MLSE thinks the NFL will insist a condition of any sale
is to look after the Argos, not drive them off, which is why Hunter is
in charge of spending as much as $50-million to renovate BMO Field.
should fend off any nasty anti-trust suits.
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