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Bon Jovi Wants Bills in Buffalo, Critics are Skeptical



CANTON, Ohio (WBEN/AP) -- Jon Bon Jovi is hoping he's written a hit with Buffalo Bills fans in a bid to stem concerns of whether his prospective ownership group plans to buy and potentially relocate the franchise to Toronto.

In a letter published by the Buffalo News on Sunday, Bon Jovi wrote that it's his ownership group's objective "to make the Bills successful in Buffalo." The letter, titled "Why We're Bidding on the Buffalo Bills," marks the first time the New Jersey rocker has publicly discussed his plans regarding the franchise.

The team is for sale after Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson died in March.

 

Statement from the Buffalo Fan Alliance in response to Bon Jovi's letter to Bills fans

Directors: Matt Sabuda, Brian Cinelli, Steve Brady write:

In the interest of all Bills fans, we appreciate Bon Jovi’s recent public statement and would like to believe that his group is committed to seeing the team remain in Buffalo for generations to come. Given the makeup of his group and some of the recent information that has come to light regarding their site selection process for a new stadium, however, we remain highly skeptical of the Bon Jovi group's intentions. While we appreciate his sentiment, it's worth noting that nowhere in his letter does he write or directly state or legally commit his group to 'not moving the Bills from Buffalo.'
 
Given the Bon Jovi group's roots and business commitments in Toronto, the Buffalo Fan Alliance believes that this group will have to tangibly and unequivocally demonstrate to Bills fans everywhere the group’s commitment to Western New York before this community and this fan base will believe their intentions. Anything short of formal action taken on their part will be viewed as nothing more than rhetoric. 
 
If they are sincere in their commitment to Buffalo, we would ask them to enter into a binding pre-purchase agreement with the state and county whereby they would agree to proactively waive the one-year buyout clause in the seventh year of the current lease if they were to successfully purchase the team. If they are truly committed to Buffalo, such an escape clause would not be necessary for them anyway and this would be a simple and demonstrable first step of their sincerity for keeping the team in Western New York. As such, the Buffalo Fan Alliance would call for them to now publicly make such a commitment as a show of good faith on their part.

We also believe that they would need to announce formalized plans for a long term-stadium solution in New York either in advance of, or contemporaneously with, any successful ownership declaration. Whether this be a more comprehensive retrofit of Ralph Wilson Stadium or a new stadium altogether, a stated to frame and binding commitment to one of the two options needs to be taken by this group so that the team will remain viable in this region for a period well beyond the current lease term.

"There has been a lot of conjecture, so we think it's important to clarify our intentions to the fans of the team and people of Buffalo," Bon Jovi wrote. "I know how much the Bills mean to the people of this region. So I want you to hear this from me: I'm not risking it all to let you down. If we are given the chance to be the next owners of the Buffalo Bills, I promise you that we will bring the same passion that you do every Sunday, every day."

Calling it his intention to "carry on Ralph Wilson's legacy" in Buffalo, Bon Jovi said his group is committed to working with state and local officials and the business community to identify a new stadium site in the region.

Senator Charles Schumer doesn't seem to be buying Bon Jovi's claim.
"Good words are nice, but they are not sufficient," Schumer said on Monday. "We need an iron-clad commitment from whoever buys the team to keep the Bills in Buffalo not for seven years, but for generations to come."












At no point in the seven-paragraph letter does Bon Jovi name his two partners or mention they are both from Toronto. His group is rounded out by Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and the Rogers family which controls Rogers Communications.

The Toronto group's intentions have been met with skepticism in Buffalo.


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Matt Sabuda, Buffalo Fan Alliance

 


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Two weeks ago, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told The Associated Press that he has no doubts regarding the group's long-term intentions to move the team to Toronto.

Under their lease that runs through the 2022, the Bills are essentially locked into playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the 2019 season. There is a one-time exception that would allow them to break the agreement for just under $28.4 million in 2020.

The deal also includes a strict non-relocation clause in which the Bills - including Wilson's estate - are not allowed to negotiate with anyone, who to their knowledge, has an intention of relocating the team during the term of the lease.

The Bills Fan Alliance, a group of fans and business leaders, questioned Bon Jovi's intentions in a statement released Sunday.

"While we appreciate his sentiment, it's worth noting that nowhere in his letter does he write or directly state that he will `not move the Bills from Buffalo,'" wrote the Buffalo Fan Alliance's directors, Matt Sabuda, Brian Cinelli and Steve Brady.

The group urged Bon Jovi to back up his statements with actions by signing a binding pre-purchase agreement to waive the one-year buyout clause.

"Anything short of formal action taken on their part will be viewed as nothing more than rhetoric," the Alliance directors wrote.

Fans have also organized a ban on Bon Jovi music being played in Buffalo. The group has printed T-shirts and posters with the motto: "Bon Jovi Free Zone."

Numerous fans were spotted wearing the shirts and carrying placards at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies on Saturday night, when former Bills receiver Andre Reed was among the seven inductees.

Reed is a member of the Fan Alliance. He drew cheers during his induction speech by saying: "Oh yeah, and the Bills will stay in Buffalo, too."

NHL Buffalo Sabres owner Terry and Kim Pegula and New York real estate mogul Donald Trump are also in the running to buy the Bills.

Prospective groups are set to begin making formal bids to buy the team in the coming weeks. A potential owner could be identified by as early as Labor Day.

The Bills most recently were valued by Forbes at $870 million but are expected to sell for at least $1 billion, partly because NFL teams rarely go on the market.

In his letter, Bon Jovi noted his interest in buying an NFL franchise grew when he founded the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League. He sold his interests in the team a few years ago.

"My family and I are prepared to make this life-changing commitment to be part of the Bills," Bon Jovi wrote. "This is not a hobby or an acquisition. Building a winner on and off the field will be job one, and I intend to spend as much time on the ground in Buffalo as needed to accomplish that goal."


Do you trust Jon Bon Jovi when he says there are no plans to move the Bills away from Buffalo?
Yes
( 52% )
No
( 48% )
 

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