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Rock star Jon Bon Jovi is consumed with purchasing an NFL team, according to numerous sources with knowledge of the situation, and is among the parties positioning to purchase the Buffalo Bills when the team comes up for sale.
The Bills will go to the market when owner Ralph Wilson passes, and, while many league sources believe the Rogers Communications group in Toronto, who already work closely with the Wilson family to stage games annually in Toronto, is the prime suitor for the franchise, sources said Bon Jovi has spent considerable time in the area getting to know politicians and power brokers and even added a date there late in a recent tour to allow for more time to allocate to the matter.
Bon Jovi has been very proactive in meeting NFL owners and general managers, and is seeking their input on all sort of issues related to football. In the past he has nearly become a minority owner of a team, most notably the Falcons. However, sources said Bon Jovi is aiming to be the principal owner -- it remains to be seen if he has the type of immense capital necessary to meet that threshold of ownership -- and has aligned himself with several powerbrokers in his effort to turn his dream into reality. (Bon Jovi has a close friendship with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and it is not uncommon for him to jump on a private plane and head to various meetings with NFL bigwigs across the country, sources said, in his pursuit).
According to several sources in the music industry, Bon Jovi’s dismissal of longtime guitarist Richie Sambora is likely even related to his pursuit of a franchise, as Sambora was the highest-paid member of his band and the next most prominent member, and by using session musicians or unknowns, he is then able to keep his costs down. Bon Jovi is a shrewd businessman who has kept much of his operation in-house and has long been the central figure in making deals for the band.
He is obviously incredibly wealthy and is held in high regard by NFL owners and within the league office, but it is very difficult to end up as the primary owner of a franchise and they do not change hands all that often. The recent passing of Titans owner Bud Adams has put a finer focus on the age and relative health of some owners, and while Adams’ family has plans in place to retain the franchise into the foreseeable future, that is not the case with the Bills.
The NFL has a vested interest in keeping the Bills a regional team, for Western New York and Southern Ontario, and in most any scenario the team will continue sharing games to some degree with Toronto. And if Rogers Communications were to get the team and get a Super Bowl-quality stadium built in Canada, then undoubtedly the number of games played in Toronto would increase over time.
Furthermore, Tim Leiweke, a former honcho at AEG (whose plans to bring a team to Los Angeles have hit several snags) is now president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a massive player in the sports and entertainment landscape of the region. And sources said Bon Jovi has major ties to Leiweke and his daughter and that perhaps they could eventually align in pursuit of the Bills, with Bon Jovi the public face of the franchise (a la rapper Jay Z, and the sports agency he in essence fronts). It’s worth noting that Bon Jovi, a Jersey native, got a banner at MLSE’s Air Canada Centre.
Whether any group would have the connections and wherewithal to compete with Rogers Communications remains to be seen, but Bon Jovi’s interest and desire should not be underestimated, sources said. However, Rogers is an international media conglomerate worth billions that already owns a nationwide sports media network in Canada and has a stadium in place in downtown Toronto. Topping their bid could be quite difficult, but those who know Bon Jovi say they don’t doubt his desire to do so, and should he not land the Bills will continue a quest to own an NFL team one way or another.
Regardless of the exact nature of the ownership transaction, league sources do not see the Bills ending in L.A. anytime soon, even with some Hollywood connections, given the geography and allure of Toronto. The Bills could end up in a special trust for a period of time following Wilson’s death, as well, but whether it’s within a year of his passing or five years after, the team will be going to sale.