Ralph Wilson: Secure Your Legacy

By Kevin Christner:
While there have been recent reports that the Bills and local governments are coming closer to agreeing on a new lease for Ralph Wilson Stadium, they also state the lease will only be in the 8-to-10-year-range.  If such a lease was signed, it would do nothing to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York.  Whatever multi-billionaire that comes along looking for an NFL Franchise wouldn’t wink at paying $100 million or so to break the lease and move the team to Los Angeles.  In fact the NFL or Los Angeles will probably make the payment for the owner.
Mr. Wilson, you are a revered member of the Western New York community.  In 1960 you took a huge risk to purchase a franchise in the start-up American Football League when the dominant National Football League had been in existence for close to 40 years.  You even bailed out other financially troubled owners in the league’s early years, more than likely saving the league from shutting down.  You put your capital at risk and were successful.  The AFL worked out, merged with the NFL, and the value of your franchise has multiplied many times over.  Your wisdom, foresight and hard work is responsible for much of that success.
But you’ve long refused to make arrangements for the team to stay in Buffalo after your passing.  If the team leaves, which now seems likely, you’ll be the only person to blame.  And all the great things you’ve done will be meaningless.  You won’t be spoken of as a revered founding figure, a man who put others above himself.  No, you will be remembered as a man for whom $800 million wasn’t enough.  Does your family really need a billion?  Will it make a significant difference in their life?  Probably not.
But Western New Yorkers will have lost something worth more than money.  We have supported the team, and you, for the past 52 years.  We’ve bought tickets and merchandise, cheered for the team when it won and still supported it when it lost.  Without the support of the community, there would be no Buffalo Bills.  The Bills and Western New York go hand in hand.  You have a great opportunity.  Sign a long-term, unbreakable lease on the stadium.  Keep the Bills here permanently.  
Many years from now, a father will take his son to the son’s first Bills game.  The father will say something close to this: “This stadium is named after Ralph Wilson, the Bills first owner.  He gave Western New York a great gift, a professional football team that can compete with America’s other great cities.  And before he passed away, he turned down a lot of money from people that would have taken the team away.  He ensured that Bills football would be here for generations to come.  He was a great man.  If you are ever in that position, I hope you will remember the example that Ralph Wilson set.  It’s one we all should follow.”

About the author  ⁄ buffalorising

66 comments
dcdotcom
dcdotcom

I'm an avid fan of the Bills, have been since I use to park cars in my families driveway on Best Street 2 blocks west of the War Memoral Stadium (Rock Pile). I grew up with the mistake(s) made by Erie County when they choose to place the stadium in Orchard Park (for reasons I prefer not to discuss here). The point I am making is that if Western New York and New York state really wanted to keep the Bills in the community the only answer is a new stadium. I know how do you build a new stadium in the 3rd poorest city in the country?

It's unfortunate that the recent attempt to get the community talking about a new stadium was pushed back. Not sure if Western New Yorkers were aware of what NFL Commissioner feelings are for the City of Atlanta and their planning for a new stadium. Why couldn't he take a stand for the Bills? He didn't because he's already read the writing on the wall.

This is the article (copy & paste):

http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-falcons-blog/2012/11/04/atlanta-falcons-nfl-commish-goddell-cites-need-for-new-stadium/

whatever
whatever

For better or worse, Congress has legislatively given the NFL (and some other sports leagues) special exemptions from laws which would otherwise restrict a lot of what they do in their unusual business model. Team salary caps for example, or even allowing each draft pick to sign only with one team and not others.

Whether any of the NFL's current bylaws could ever be overturned by courts is anyone's guess, although seems unlikely. The Supremes have often given Congress a lot of flexibility in what it does beyond what the constitution says it can - many examples.

Anyhow if maximum is really 25 part owners, that could work considering there's a few billionaires with connections to WNY who could fund a team and possibly stadium too, plus more multi-millionaires.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula - over $3 billion

ex-WNYer Bob Rich - over $2 billion

Bruins owner, current WNYer Jeremy Jacobs, $1.9B

ex- Sabres owner, ex-WNYer Tom Golisano - $1.9B

Also WNY-connected families who own large private sector co's like New Era Cap, Wegmans, Tops, others, … not to mention non-WNYers who might also want to own a part of a team that's here.

Seems like plenty to form a group to seriously bid for a purchase price near $1B if they want to use their money that way. It might be a big 'if', but who knows - we'll see.

whatever
whatever

I'll figure that's joking - right?

It's common knowledge how nicknames are often changed....

Oilers to Titans after leaving Houston,

Browns to Ravens after leaving Cleveland,

Sonics to Thunder after leaving Seattle,

Braves to Clippers after leaving Buffalo,

Nordiques to Avalanche after leaving Quebec, .... and others, etc.

But it can be funny sometimes when a nickname has meaning for a city but isn't changed after a move.

Lakers name made sense in Minneapolis, not really after move to L.A.

Flames in Atlanta, okay ... but then in Calgary?

Maybe weirdest - Jazz in New Orleans, ... but then Utah? lol

Rand503
Rand503

What city would take the Bills? It would have to be a city that starts with a B for the alliteration. Who would accept the Richmond Bills? Or the Memphis Bills? Or the Soiux Falls Bills? Those just won't work.

Boise Bills comes close. But even that sounds ridiculous, and the logo would certainly have to be changed. Really, all possible names sound ridiculous when you think about it. They will be laughed out of the NFL.

And what would come of our cherished Miami-Buffalo rivalry? Will Miami care as much to kick the butts of the Portland Bills? (Not to the mention the confusion of WHICH Portland's they are supposed to kick?)

Rand503
Rand503

The killer part is that the no more than 25 can hold an indirect interest. So that kills my idea.

However, I wonder if that could be challenged in court. What that does is limit an entire class of people from ever buying a franchise. By limiting the number, it could be argued that it restricts competition, or lowers the price that a franchise might sell for to the benefit of a select number of likely purchasers.

benfranklin
benfranklin

It's kind of funny to read what people think should be published on this site. The site needs people to see the ads, and periodically click on them. Nothing else. This story generated posts from readers, that must drive up traffic.

WIGS
WIGS

I'm sorry. But this article is worse than the fantasy of putting the stadium on Navy Island. a pathetic plea that will never be read for whom its inteded. The team will go to the highest bidder. Let's hope it's a WNY consortium to keep it in Buffalo.

Go Bills!

whatever
whatever

rand>"Unless the bylaws say that it must be my own personal money, and money I didn't raise from others, then it should be pretty easy to get around these rules."

Well, I can't say it's certain you wouldn't be able to pretty easily get around those rules, although I feel certain the prevailing conventional wisdom among people who discuss this matter disagrees with you.

Here's the bylaws if you want to see them -

http://static.nfl.com/static/content//public/static/html/careers/pdf/co_.pdf

About half way through that is this -

"1996 RESOLUTION FC-5

… ["Whereas" clauses]...

Be It Resolved, that member clubs organized as limited partnerships will continue to be required to have a single general partner controlled by an individual who has at least a 30% equity interest and total voting control of the general partner’s and limited partnership’s affairs (except for voting rights of limited partners required by law);

Further Resolved, that from the date of this resolution, up to a total of 25 persons may own direct or indirect interests in such clubs (including interests in the general partner of such a club); and

Further Resolved, that with respect to family companies and family trusts owning limited partnership interests in a member club, the following ownership attribution rules will apply for purposes of these ownership limitations:

Family companies and family trusts shall count as a single “person” if:

(1) members of a single family (a) own substantially all equity interests in the company, or (b) constitute substantially all of the trust beneficiaries, and

(2) the only assets owned by the particular company or trust in addition to the NFL club interest are passive investment assets that are not used in an active trade or business (although a family company owning an interest in an NFL club may be a member of a group of companies structured in accordance with 1993 Resolution FC-5), and

(3) in the case of a company, a single individual has voting control of such company (whether as general partner, equity holder, voting trustee under a trust containing provisions with respect to control, continuation, primacy of League policies, and trustee succession that are acceptable to the League, or proxy holder under irrevocable proxies in form and substance acceptable to the League), and in the case of a trust, a single individual acts as trustee under a trust agreement containing provisions with respect to control, trustee succession, primacy of League policies, and investment restrictions that are acceptable to the League.

1996 RESOLUTION FC-6

… ["Whereas" clauses]...

Be It Resolved, that from the date of this resolution, no more than a total of 25 persons may own direct or indirect interests in member clubs organized as corporations;

Further Resolved, that with respect to family companies and family trusts owning interests in a member club organized as a corporation, the following ownership attribution rules will apply for purposes of these ownership limitations:

Family companies and family trusts shall count as a single “person” if:

(1) members, of a single family (a) own substantially all equity interests in the company, or (b) constitute substantially all of the trust beneficiaries,

(2) the only assets owned by the particular company or trust in addition to the NFL club interest are passive investment assets that are not used in an active trade or business (although a family company owning an interest in an NFL club may be a member of a group of companies structured in accordance with 1993 Resolution FC-5), and

(3) in the case of a company, a single individual has voting control of such company (whether as general partner, equity holder, voting trustee under a trust containing provisions with respect to control, continuation, primacy of League policies, and trustee succession that are acceptable to the League, or proxy holder under irrevocable proxies in form and substance acceptable to the League), and in the case of a trust, a single individual acts as trustee under a trust agreement containing provisions with respect to control, trustee succession, primacy of League policies, and investment restrictions that are acceptable to the League;

Further Resolved, that if an NFL club is owned by a privately held corporation that has multiple classes of stock, one of which possesses full voting power and the others of which possess voting power only to the extent required by applicable corporate law, the principal and/or controlling owner shall only be required to have a 30% equity interest in the corporation if such principal and/or controlling owner owns all of the voting stock of the corporation and is not subject to contractual or other restrictions on his ability to vote such stock;

Further Resolved, that if an NFL club is owned by a privately held corporation other than one described above, there shall be a single individual (or League- approved voting trust or family holding company) who owns at least 51% of the stock and controls at least 51% of the voting power of such corporation; and

Further Resolved, that any NFL club owned by any corporation that is not in compliance with this resolution as of the date of its passage shall come into compliance with this resolution no later than December 31, 1997."

If you find a way to pretty easily get around it, you'll be famous.

Keep us updated.

whatever
whatever

First, this looks like a pretty big back pedaling.....

Christner/article>'If the team leaves, which now seems likely, you'll be the only person to blame.'

Christner/comment>'Therefore if things go badly after he passes he will bear much of the blame.'

Second, this is a lie from you:

Christner>'you think so poorly of the Western New York Community.'

No, I don't think poorly of the WNY community. Nothing I wrote even hinted that.

I noted there were quite a few big cities which didn't yet have teams in 1960. Several of those have proven successful for teams including those I listed yesterday (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Seattle, Miami) and others I didn't mention like Indy, Phoenix, etc.

By the way, teams in every one of those 6 other places have a higher price valuation than the Bills, says Forbes:

"As the NFL kicked off its 2012 season, Forbes magazine revealed in annual valuations of the league’s 32 teams.

And the Buffalo Bills placed 29th, ahead of the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars."

Mr. Wilson put the team here and kept it here for 52 years and counting, while during that time at least six other teams have moved (Colts to Indy, Rams to St Louis, Raiders to L.A. then back to Oakland, Oilers to Nashville, Browns to Baltimore, Cardinals to Phoenix). And a 7th, the Vikings, has threatened a move to L.A. or San Antonio. An 8th, the Saints, also at one point tried to build support for moving to San Antonio. Anyone doubting it can google for news reports a few years ago.

Those are facts about other cities, replying with objective context to your article's statement 'Without the support of the community, there would be no Buffalo Bills.'.

Yes, the team would have had a different name, but no, there's no logical basis to think this area was an absolute necessity to a franchise's success.

Those facts don't imply that I think "poorly of the Western New York Community" as your comment wrongly claims.

Evidently you're willing to invent wrong claims about others. Great.

Christner>'If you want people to take you seriously, put your name behind your comments.'

I was about to ask why you didn't reply under any anon comments that agree with your article and say those also shouldn't be taken seriously...

but now I see in 50+ comments so far (almost all of which are anon), I don't notice any that look like they do agree with you.

So instead, I'll just wonder this -

If you really feel anon responses aren't - and/or shouldn't be - taken seriously, why would you have taken mine seriously enough to type a rebuttal? Inconsistent, no?

sonyactivision
sonyactivision

Teams don't sign 50 or 99 year leases anymore. They usually sign 15 or 20 year leases given the increasing obsolescence of stadiums ina technology-driven age. 8-10 years signifies to me that the Bills do not expect to remain in Orchard Park much longer since that facility is outdated. Where they go next does depend on the community and whether it wants the Bills.

paulsobo
paulsobo

An 8-10 year lease says 2 things to me:

1) The price to buy the Buffalo Bills will be to large for them to stay in the area and they will be purcased and relocated.

2) The price to buy the Buffalo Bills will be so large that a new larger stadium will be necessary to provide the revenue to keep them. More sky boxes. Superbowl capable. Location more convenient to Rochester and Canada such as First Ward.

Put up or shut up time is coming and the lease spells the count down.

Rand503
Rand503

I'd love to read the actual bylaws. If one person must own 20% of the team, that might be circumvented. I can go out and raise $200 million and have a personal contract with all those people that I will own their money so long as I use it to personally invest in the team.

Unless the bylaws say that it must be my own personal money, and money I didn't raise from others, then it should be pretty easy to get around these rules. You create a "team of 20 people who go out and raise the money, they deposit in to their bank accounts and then use it to buy the team. Problem solved.

You would need a contract between those 20 people and the hundreds of investors to insure that they get the money back if the team is ever sold, and they get a share of whatever profits accrue to the team of 20. They would have no other rights, and the team of 20 would own the Bills and be the managers.

Jaxson
Jaxson

He really should sell the team now to some one like Rocco Tirmeni and maybe he could include Jim Kelly too! And Maybe Roocco as a developer could help geta new stadium built that waterfront one looked pretty nice.

The Boss
The Boss

The market has decided by sold out games with a mediocore team year after year. The franchise makes millions of dollars a year because the NFL shares revenue, has a salary cap and hugely lucrative TV contract, It is a winner no matter where it is located. Now the owner in Buffalo might not make as much as Dallas, NY and the like because of corporate suites and advertising in the stadium, but the Bills are certainly not a money loser and never have been.

Kevin Christner
Kevin Christner

Dear whatever,

lLets talk about what is childish. Failing to arrange for the orderly transition from one owner to the next during your lifetime. As commenters have pointed out there are several possible buyers. A transaction during Wilson's lifetime, especially now, would allow the new owner to conduct appropriate lease negotiations with the county / state. Ralph Wilson, and no one else can make the sell decision. Therefore if things go badly after he passes he will bear much of the blame.

We are remembered not only for what we do in life but the legacy we leave behind. If you read my article closely you will see that I praise Wilson for the many positive things he has done in his lifetime. But if we add all those up are they worth more than what he could have done to secure the team in Buffalo? You may disagree, but I don't think so.

I'm glad you think so poorly of the Western New York Community. Ralph Wilson telegraphed "Count me in for Buffalo." If the team wasn't viable he's had over 52 years to move it. Enough said. A long term lease would make it nearly impossible to move the team. Here you show your ignorance of how the real world works.

There's no whining here. In fact, I'm not much of a football fan. But I will call out those who have the power to improve our community ahead of their self interest. And I'll put my name on it. If you want people to take you seriously, put your name behind your comments. Only children hide behind monikers like "whatever."

LouisTully
LouisTully

So the conversation has gone from Ralph Wilson's legacy to the game being too vicious?

benfranklin
benfranklin

"In the long run..." Don't know about you, but it seems like the hitting is becoming more vicious. Thinking specifically last night about a hit on the Chiefs running back where he was slowed by one linebacker, then the next had a clean shot on him. It just seems like a matter of time before someone dies on the field.

The evidence of concussion problems builds... I love the game, but wonder if in 100 years it will be gone (or something else takes its place). I see a sport like baseball lasting as long as people are here to play it. Football, not so sure.

Long way of saying that I think the buyer will be over paying.

whatever
whatever

As a Bills fan, I like having them and the Sabres be here.

However, the crybaby victim mind set entitlement attitudes toward them such as expressed Mr. Christner lead me to me wonder if the area wouldn't be better off if the Bills moved away.

So much of this article looks crazy to me.

Christner>'If the team leaves, which now seems likely, you'll be the only person to blame.'

I don't know if them being moved by the next owner is likely or not (it won't surprise me if the NFL decides on an expansion team for L.A., ...time will tell).

But if they do relocate, it will be the result of many factors and lack of new ownership group being willing to pay enough for it to stay here - not the 'blame' of only one then-deceased person.

In the very long run - say 50 or 100 years - yeah there's a decent chance it will move for reasons rehashed so often (relative population, # of corporate HQ's, etc).

On the other hand, it's also possible the NFL could expand by so many teams that a move won't happen. Maybe places like L.A., London, Toronto, San Antonio, and so on will eventually have teams while WNY does too. Hard to predict. Still, nothing lasts forever.

Christner>'And all the great things you've done will be meaningless.'

That's just a judgmental moralizing arrogant childish thing to say, considering Mr. Wilson's military service, non-sports business accomplishments, family life, charitable donations, ....

Christner>'Without the support of the community, there would be no Buffalo Bills.'

Although it would be called something different, it would still exist even if he'd never chosen Buffalo.

Cities which didn't yet have teams when Wilson chose Buffalo included Miami, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Seattle, and others. He could have chosen any of those and then support of the WNY community wouldn't have mattered.

Christner>'Sign a long-term, unbreakable lease on the stadium. Keep the Bills here permanently.'

Nothing is ever permanent. I very much doubt that there's such a thing practically as an 'unbreakable', 'permanent' lease for a stadium. It looks like a naive demand in addition to being selfish and whiny.

In sum - Wilson has evidently been open and honest about his long term intentions that the team be sold after he passes on (which has been giving future bidders to own it plenty of time to proactively organize their efforts), and Christner's criticisms look ridiculous.

Buffaboy
Buffaboy

Our city is the perfect candidate for this, but it's too late. This policy is grandfathered only for use by the Green Bay Packers. Actually you may remember last year during their undefeated stretch they sold tons of shares.

whatever
whatever

rand>"Are there restrictions as to who can buy it?"

Yes, NFL rules limit the maximum number of part owners of a team to something around 25 people. I've also seen the limit reported as 30 or 32 people, so I'm not sure what it is exactly but it's something around that range (with Green Bay being a famous grandfather-claused exception). There's also a rule that one person (or family) must own at least 20% of the team, or something like that, which was lowered from a previous 30% requirement.

This says the maximum allowed ownership group size is 25.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Hundred

"The "Happy Hundred", also known as the "100 Brothers", was a group of investors who owned the Philadelphia Eagles franchise of the National Football League from 1949 to 1963. ...

Such an ownership group is not legal under current NFL bylaws, which requires that one general partner hold at least a 30% stake in the team and limits the number of people who can hold interest in a club organized as a corporation to 25."

So an idea for 100,000 owners looks like around 99,900-something more than allowed.

jhorn
jhorn

given the results in those four games i'm assuming "super bowels" was not a typo....

Rand503
Rand503

If the Bills are for sale at some point, I would think that there is no reason the sports fans couldn't form an LLC and raise the money necessary to buy it. Are there restrictions as to who can buy it? If not, then that seems the most reasonable course of action.

IF you really want the Bills to stay here, then put your money where you mouth is and put up the cash and outbid everyone else. IT's a free market economy, right?

If it requires a billion dollars, you can sell shares in the LLC at $1000 a piece, so that would require 100,000 investors, although people could certainly buy mulitiple share. This would insure that the Bills remain forever in Buffalo (at least as long as a majority votes to keep them here), and any profits would be distributed to the shareholders.

Rand503
Rand503

Because he relies upon the public to

a) Purchase tickets to his events and

b) Subsidize his stadium

Rand503
Rand503

Then who does? Seems to me the market will eventually choose. If there are not enough donations and ticket sales to the BPO, it will eventually fail.

With the Bills, it's a matter of ticket sales. IF they don't get enough, then we can't support it. And then they can and should leave for a place that can support it.

IT's the same principle with any store or retail -- if there aren't enough shoppers for Macy's it will eventually close up and leave.

Jaxson
Jaxson

I think I read something where Rocco Tirmini and a group were going to buy them and then move them to hamilton. It wouldnt be a terible conpromise.

Buffaboy
Buffaboy

That should be an article in itself!

Just for the record, the Bruins owner runs Deleware North.

Buffaboy
Buffaboy

That should be an article in itself!

Just for the record, the Bruins owner runs Deleware North.

Rand503
Rand503

I doubt the PR value is much. They've been showing Buffalo for 30 years, and I seriously doubt many people have come to Buffalo as a tourist or as a businessman because they saw City Hall on tv.

Have you ever had the urge to visit Green Bay because you saw a televised game? Or Miami? or your opinion of Dallas changed because of a game?

boozehound
boozehound

What really was the point of this blog post? It reads as a letter to Ralph Wilson and a very bad all speculative letter at that? I know it's a long shot but I am going to just guess that Ralph Wilson does not read this site. It's kind of like those weird Facebook posts that read "to the jerk that cut me off this morning..." or "c'mon Bills...your playing like crap. Get it together". This sites content from time to time really sets the bar pretty low and I have noticed that much more of the comments have become the argumentative type and there has been much less well informed dicussions happening. Better content and quality moderators would really go a towards improving this site.

The Boss
The Boss

Well said beau fleuve, why does he owe the public an anouncement

BeauFleuve
BeauFleuve

"But you've long refused to make arrangements for the team to stay in Buffalo after your passing."

This is speculation. Nobody knows if he has or hasn't made plans for succession of the team. Business succession planning is frequently done under confidentiality provisions until a person passes to respect the dignity of the business owner in his final years and not have family members (and in this case the public) clamoring for the person's death.

BuffaloRox
BuffaloRox

Supporting a new stadium or the Bills for that matter does not make you pro-Buffalo it just makes you pro-Bills. The 1950's are calling, they want their Joe McCarthy "if you're not with us, you're against us" mentality back.

chetroia
chetroia

Did you watch Spain beat Italy in Euro cup ? Dont get so offensive not eveyone likes the Bills! I agree with North too. Hes only telling it like it is. I myself respect your opinion you can contiune to hold your breath and waste time watching the Bills lose and the PR that pushed in the Buffalo media even when the Bills are not playing during the summer they over talked about. There are other things in Buffalo besides the Bills and Buster Bison.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

That 15% also represents a good 9,000+ people who pump money into the local economy from elsewhere seven times a year. These people need to eat, they need fuel, some stay overnight and make a week end of it.

If each of those 9,000 people just spend $20 locally that equates to $180,000 per game pumped into the local economy. That's $1.2 million every year, not including officials or visiting teams.

Now imagine if that number was 30%.

Sure it might not equate to the renovations needed or the cost of a new stadium, but that is a lot of money coming into Buffalo regardless.

New2Buffalo
New2Buffalo

Downtown is closer to Canada... you can't get any closer than actually being IN Canada... the QEW runs right to the Peace Bridge(which we are spending money on to improve for Canadians coming INTO the US) which dumps you right out into Downtown Buffalo. If Canada wants an NFL team they can take the Jacksonville Jaguars and turn them into a fun time dinosaur named team like the Toronto Pterodactyls... and they will be losers just like the Raptors, Leafs, and the Blue Jays. You don't need Toronto money to make a successful pro sports team. You need good owners and good personnell. Most successful NFL teams become great because they draft really well and coach really well, then the success keeps fans/tv interested and they have enough money to keep good players around. Why can't Ralph commit a chunk of his Bills fortune to the waterfront/downtown project that was proposed. It could be known as Ralph Wilson's Barclays Stadium or whatever. He's the owner of the team until he's not. Right now as the owner he can sign a contract to lease The Ralph for 5 years and in the same minute sign a contract committing money and the team to then move to the new stadium after that. Why must we assume he would stand pat and wait for a clusterF*%*& to happen after his passing? If I knew I was at the end of my life line I would want know I had played my part to set things up nicely before I passed on. A lot of people at his age are waiting... holding out... for something to be set right before they go. I don't know his health situation but perhaps he hasn't passed because he knows what a mess it's going to be if he doesn't do something to ensure the Bills stay in WNY.

benfranklin
benfranklin

Agreed. I had trouble with OJ getting convicted for just wanting his stuff back. Not sure which was more exciting that year he ran for 2003 (in 14 games), Perreault winding up behind the net for an end to end rush, or OJ turning up field behind Reggie McKenzie and Joe Delamielleure.

I'm a grown man who doesn't show much emotion, but I figure the next time I cry will be when they win the superbowl, or leave town.

benfranklin
benfranklin

I like your persistence. I'm unofficially...oh, what the hell, officially putting you in charge of keeping the team here. I'd like to see the same outcome as you (maybe less government involvement), just not sure how we can stack the cards in our favor.

Irish Dave
Irish Dave

First, let me admit I have no financial expertise at all, and I hear what you're saying, but to these very very very rich guys and over the long long term which they and their grandchildren would be owning the team, paying that extra estate tax etc would not matter. (I also forget to mention that the Seneca Indians have also been whispered as an ownership partner) - If it's spread out between a handful of these very wealthy Buffalo minded investors the money would work itself out. Let's also not forget about the government getting involved. Senator Chuck Schumer, Brian Higgins, Gov Cuomo would all work to build a deal where the state would chip in to keep the team playing here, in New York State. Yes that means tax dollars, but I'm OK with that. It's for the greater good of the area. The psyche. Let's also not forget that NFL commissioner Roget Goodell is from Jamestown and grew up a Bills fan. He can't say anything in public, but behind the scenes he'll push the owners to vote down any move of the Bills to another city. He and Russ Brandon (also from Buffalo) know the Toronto market is the key and we're already doing things to make inroads there. 15% of fans at Bills games are from Canada. That will only grow as we keep the Toronto series going. If the new ownership group can lure those Toronto and Hamilton fans with lots of advertising etc and a shining new Stadium a few years down the road (either Downtown - by then Canalside, and the waterfront will be a very cool place on the upswing...or maybe in Niagara Falls, NY - which will hopefully also be on the upswing by then) then we'll be successful at making the Bills a regional franchise.

BuffaloRox
BuffaloRox

I've been a Bills fan my entire life. I remember watching the Bills when they started playing at Rich Stadium and my friend's dad was operating the old light-bulb score board. I secretly hope that OJ is truly innocent as he was my hero growing up and it was crushing to see him being followed by helicopter as he fled on the LA freeway.

Unfortunately, there is a LOT of money that is being asked by this community to put into renovations of the Ralph or to build a new stadium in order to support the most successful professional sports league in North America. There are limited public dollars at play and an investment in the Bills undoubtedly comes at the detriment of many many other local projects. I am not persuaded by the economic or psychological arguments that purportedly justify the investment.

This needs to be put in proper perspective. We are talking about entertainment. The loss of Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna had a much more profound effect on WNY. If this community chooses to support the Bills at such a great cost, then so be it. If not, I will be sad but life will go on here just as it did in Edmonton and Calgary after they lost their beloved NHL franchises. At times, I wonder if more would be achieved for this community by investing the same money in UB's football and basketball programs in order to vault them to a major Div I conference. Lots to think about.

benfranklin
benfranklin

As a Bills fan, I agree with all of what you wrote.

As a student of economics, you need to consider the recent sports investments in Southern California. Look at the new owners of the Dodgers taking on 260 million dollars of salary from the Red Sox. Look at the acquisitions the Lakers have made.

You may say who cares, but it shows L.A. sets the market. Whatever NFL team fills the LA void, the teams value is the value that LA sets on it, not the value the team had in the town it's leaving.

If Ralph has no contingency set up, settling the estate will have it's own clock. Let's say the team is worth 50% more in Los Angeles than it is here. The federal government will want the greatest value, to increase the estate tax. That would mean a local group would have to pay an extra 400 million to keep the team here (roughly three times what Pegula paid for the Sabres, just as a premium).

I live and die with every third and twelve the Bills face, regardless of their record. I hope they stay, but I'd put it at the odds of Lindell hitting a 57 yarder against the wind.

benfranklin
benfranklin

You may be correct. My only argument here is that with a smaller and smaller population, you can support less and less. I don't love the philharmonic (wish my tastes were that evolved), but I realize it's important to some, which makes it important to me if I wish to see the area survive, and someday, hopefully, thrive.

Irish Dave
Irish Dave

I've read several articles that sound very sure that the Bills won't be moving to LA. San Diego, Oakland, Jacksonville are the front runners. I can't remember the articles exactly, but Google it. Certainly there are very powerful rich people who would like to move the Bills to LA once our current owner is no longer with us, but lets not forget that there are also very powerful rich people who would like to buy the Bills and KEEP them in Buffalo forever. Although he hasn't said it in public, you can't tell me that Terry Pegula who has 3 Billion Dollars at his disposal has no interest in being at least part owner of the Bills. Its in his interest as the Sabres owner to keep his team city a recognizable sports metro area to lure good players to the "Hockey Heaven" he's building around the Sabres brand. He also used to live in Orchard Park and his wife is from Buffalo for cryin out loud! Also, former Sabres owner Tom Galisano has stated that if he thought there was a danger of the Bills leaving town that he would do what he could to keep them here. He has another Billion dollars. The reason he bought the sabres in the first place was that he was thought they would leave town and made it iron clad that any new owner could not move the team. He refused to sell the team to another bidder who wanted to move them to another city (Can't remember which one). Let's also not forget Jeremy Jacobs and his family, who - although they own the Bruins and can't therefore be involved with an ownership group for the Bills - I've heard has said he would sell the Bruins if the Bills were in danger of leaving and make a move to keep the Bills here. Lets also remember Jim Kelly who has said many times that he has an ownership group with more than enough money to buy the Bills and keep them here. Why would he say that if it weren't at least in part true. Kelly still lives in Buffalo. So does Bob Rich who probably has another half Billion to chip in. These are all Buffalo guys who - whether they form an ownership group together or try it on their own - could keep the Bills here. They would probably play at the Ralph for a few years, then try and get a new stadium built either downtown or closer to Canada, which -although I'd love a downtown stadium, - is probably the best idea to regionalize the team at a stadium closer to Canada. Don't lose faith. I don't think the Bills are going anywhere.

Beth_W
Beth_W

NorthBuf, do you even watch home games? The shots of Buffalo I've seen on recent games are of Niagara Falls, the buffalo in the zoo, and the waterfront. Let's face it- there are fat guys in weird outfits at every NFL game.

In PR, it's important to be positive and on-message. Buffalo's new image is that we're experiencing a renaissance of sorts, and we're not the same old fat guys with mullets in a snow storm. If you're really pro-Buffalo, get on-board or STFU. The late-nineties called, and they want your mind-set back.

benfranklin
benfranklin

I would agree that common sense would dictate taking care of this in a manner you describe. However, nothing exists anywhere, in any interview, that suggests he has done so. To some questions, he's said 'absolutely not', when hinting that some portion of the team might be sold to a local in order to keep the team here.

He has dismissed leaving the team to his wife, which he has said would be too stressful for her.

My speculation, and that's what it is, is that Mr. Wilson made one investment in his life that paid off big, and this is it. The valuation explosion over the last twenty years was little to do with his efforts, but the overall market increase in television rights. If you told him thirty years ago the team would approach a valuation of a billion dollars, he probably would have laughed (he probably laughs at it now).

BuffaloRox
BuffaloRox

Your slippery slope examples are poor choices IMO. The amount of public investment in and subsidies of Sheas and the Philharmonic are worlds apart. Until Bills show a reciprocal interest in remaining in WNY long-term, I think all of the talk of keeping them here via building a new stadium or major renovations of the Ralph are a waste of energy. Enticing a reluctant prospective tenant with a substantial public investment a sparkly new building on choice real estate sound familiar? HINT: rhymes with "mass toe".

chetroia
chetroia

Hahah yea typical Buffalo fashion too. Dont forget the 1991 division champs sweatshirts too and the Bills make you wanna shout song!

Kevin Christner
Kevin Christner

benfranklin:

As someone who works in the high net worth tax world, I would be shocked if Mr. Wilson hasn't spent years using any number of techniques to move most of the value of the Bills out of his estate. If he had started planning 20 years ago there is every chance none of the Bills assets are currently in his estate.

Secondly, since Mr. Wilson is married, his estate will pass to his wife tax free, and tax will only be due at her death.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

"Any PR is good PR."

It does not matter if we lose or snows a lot, the point is for the city is in peoples minds period. Especially if our great architecture and monuments are focused upon during home games.

Buffalo is never going to change its image abroad if the new Buffalo is not put out there.

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