- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's been nearly three months since the death of owner Ralph Wilson and the Buffalo Bills have moved significantly closer to finding a new owner.
As was expected by the end of this month, the "transaction team" handling the Bills' sale began contacting potential bidders this week. While an exact timetable isn't known, the bidding process is expected to close by the end of the summer, with a new owner approved and potentially in place by early next year.
Here is refresher on who may bid:
Terry Pegula: Pegula, the current owner of the Sabres, has been floated as a potential buyer since before Wilson's death, and WKBW and WGRZ in Buffalo both reported last week that he was interested. That came on the heels of a report from the Buffalo News that Pegula had freed up $1.75 billion in cash by selling some of his energy assets. While other potential Bills buyers have undoubtedly put their financial ducks in a row to buy the team, the $1.75 billion figure is significant. The Bills' price tag is expected to be around $1 billion, meaning Pegula shouldn't have trouble meeting financial requirements. Since he already owns Buffalo's other major sports team, Pegula certainly would want to keep the Bills in the region.
Donald Trump: Another bidder who shouldn't have a problem with cash is Donald Trump -- or at least that's what his camp says. Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump, told the Toronto Sun this week that Trump "is more than capable of buying the team on his own; whether he does, or elects to syndicate, is something he will decide at a later date." Trump has been the most vocal potential bidder, taking to the airwaves and Twitter early in the process to express his desire to keep the Bills in the region. At this point, Trump should still be taken seriously as a potential bidder.
Tom Golisano: The former Buffalo Sabres owner confirmed at a public appearance earlier this month that he is interested in buying the team. Like Pegula, Golisano is a local businessman who wants to keep the Bills in town. However, Golisano's most recent comments indicate that he wouldn't get into a bidding war. "I'm not possessed about owning the Buffalo Bills," he said. "If it costs way more than I'm willing to pay, then I won't feel bad if I don't get them. I'll only feel bad if they move out of Western New York."
Jon Bon Jovi and MLSE: This is the group that has Bills fans concerned. Bon Jovi's interest in becoming an NFL owner dates back several years. He's built ties with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and recently earned praise from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones -- two of the NFL's more influential figures. The Toronto Sun reported earlier this spring that Bon Jovi is expected to partner with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum in making a bid for the Bills. MLSE owns the NBA's Toronto Raptors and NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, and the fear of Bills fans is that this group has its eyes on moving the Bills to Toronto. Aside from some extraordinary legal maneuvering, that move couldn't take place until at least 2020.
C. Dean Metropoulos: The Buffalo News reported earlier this month that C. Dean Metropoulos, owner of Pabst Brewing Company, would review "any such opportunity" to buy an NFL team. Metropoulos unsuccessfully bid for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008, so he has some experience in this arena. For now, we'll consider him a dark horse.
One group that won't be bidding on the Bills, according to the Buffalo News, is the Jacobs family. Jeremy Jacobs, owner of Buffalo-based food service company Delaware North, wouldn't be able to buy the Bills since he owns the NHL's Boston Bruins, while his company also has gambling interests that NFL rules prohibit.
Secondary to the Bills' sale process is their efforts to build a new stadium or extensively renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium. Significant developments aren't expected until a new owner is in place, but there is a pending deadline looming: AECOM, the consulting company hired by New York State to examine potential new stadium locations, is due to submit a report on those sites by July 11.