There have been a myriad of questions and speculation about the transfer of ownership process concerning the Buffalo Bills over the last two months. Those questions are gaining some clarity as the initial step in the ownership transition process has been made. On Wednesday the team announced that they have hired legal counsel and an investment firm to initiate the sales process of the club.
In a team statement the Bills announced that they have retained Morgan Stanley as financial advisor and that Proskauer Rose has been engaged to serve as legal advisor during the sale process.
This sale process will be designed to ensure that the club continues to comply with, and remains faithful to, its obligations under the NFL's rules and regulations as well as its obligations to New York State and Erie County pursuant to the Ralph Wilson Stadium lease.
It is anticipated that the transaction team will begin contacting prospective buyers within the next 30 days.
"We are pleased to have been able to assemble, as our transaction team, two experienced and talented firms in the specialized field of sports mergers and acquisitions, Morgan Stanley and Proskauer Rose, to be involved in our sale process," said Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon.
In an appearance on Bills flagship radio station WGR Sportsradio 550 Wednesday morning Brandon, who had just wrapped up his responsibilities at the NFL spring league meetings in Atlanta, outlined how things will proceed from this point.
"The sales process will move forward," Brandon said. "This will really begin the vetting process of the sale. The bank will go through all the interested parties and vet them."
Brandon would only characterize interest in purchasing the Buffalo Bills as very high as he declined to discuss how many prospective buyers are included in the new ownership pool.
"I know that we will go about our business in a very methodical manner and keep the league, the state and the county updated on a consistent basis," said Brandon. "I'm very focused and I think our organization is very focused so that we can provide the needed deliverables to the National Football League."
Buffalo's President and CEO commented on the support from the rest of the league's ownership.
"They obviously know our business well as we know the businesses of other franchises and how we go about our business," said Brandon. "We try to be good stewards of our brand and I think the National Football League appreciates that. Obviously there's a tremendous emotional attachment when it comes to Mr. Wilson, but at the end of the day it'll be a business decision and we'll put our best foot forward in the process."
Much of the talk about the Bills this week at the league's spring meetings, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, has been pushing for a new stadium for the franchise to keep it financially viable in Western New York. Brandon, however, wants the New Stadium Working Group to provide the definitive answer on that subject by way of a thorough feasibility process.
"I think a stadium long term is something that needs to be looked at, but that's really what the function of the new stadium working group is," he said. "That also is a function of the lease where members of the Bills organization, the county and the state are together and methodically going through a process to see if a new stadium makes sense.
"Eventually that very well may be the case, but we have an opportunity with this renovation to have a runway where we can go through the studies and the demographics and have an understanding as a group and as a community as to what is the best solution is moving forward."
When asked if sale approval by the league could be made contingent on a sign off for a new stadium, Brandon indicated that both decisions would be concurrent.
"I think they're on parallel paths," he said. "The sales process will go through the different layers each and every month as we go through our transaction counsel and our investment bank and then the new stadium working group will continue to work on that path to see what the future holds for a new stadium or a retro-fitted stadium or whatever comes out in the studies."
The new stadium debate has largely overshadowed the current renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium at One Bills Drive, which continues to move forward in earnest.
"I'm constantly asked about a new stadium, but our focus at One Bills Drive right now is on the $130 million renovation that we have going on," Brandon said. "I think you're going to be surprised. It's going to significantly impact the fan experience in a positive way."
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