Pegulas reach 'definitive agreement' to buy the Buffalo Bills

Sep 9, 2014

Terry Pegula and his wife Kim are in line to buy the Bills, pending league approval.
Credit File photo

The owners of the Buffalo Sabres have been chosen to be the new owners of the Buffalo Bills. Terry and Kim Pegula have made the winning bid to take ownership of the storied NFL franchise.

The estate of late founding owner Ralph Wilson Jr. has accepted the Pegulas' bid. NFL owners must approve the sale and they are expected to do so during their next meeting next month in Manhattan.

Both the Bills and Pegula issued official statements just before 3 p.m. Tuesday.

"Subject to the approval of the NFL owners and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, the definitive agreement calls for the Pegula family to acquire all of the interest in the Buffalo Bills franchise from the Wilson trust. The parties intend to submit the agreement for approval by the NFL owners at their meeting in New York City on October 8th," reads a statement from the team, issued mid-afternoon Tuesday. 

The Pegulas reportedly outshined every other bidder with their purchase offer, their local ties and cash on hand. The offer is believed to be in the neighborhood of $1 billion. Numerous media outlets are reporting the sale price to be $1.4 billion.

Bids were also submitted by real estate mogul Donald Trump and a Toronto-based group that included rock star Jon Bon Jovi by Monday's 5 p.m. deadline.

“Kim and I are humbled and honored that the Wilson family has chosen us to be the second owner of the Buffalo Bills.  Pending the NFL approval process, being the next owner of the Buffalo Bills would be a great privilege for our family.  Ralph Wilson left an indelible mark on our community and we will strive every day to honor his legacy," Pegula said, in a statement. 

Pegula, a Pennsylvania billionaire, made his fortune as founder of East Resources, a natural gas drilling company that uses the controversial extraction technique known as hydrofracking. He sold certain assets of the company to Royal Dutch Shell for approximately $4.7 billion and others to American Energy for for $1.75 billion in 2014.

Pegula purchased the Buffalo Sabres from former owner Tom Golisano for $189 million in 2011. He is privately funding construction of HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo, a sports and entertainment complex that, once complete, will feature two NHL-size ice rinks, a hotel, restaurants, retail, and a large parking ramp.

The Pegula bid was considered, by many, to be the frontrunner throughout the sale process. Bills fans, concerned for years that the team might move out of the area, embraced Pegula in stark contrast to the Toronto group's bid, which many feared would lead to a relocation north of the border. One newspaper article dubbed Bon Jovi "the most hated man in Buffalo" and an anti-Bon Jovi movement swept through the region, with the New Jersey rocker's music banned at a number of area bars.

"Ralph would have been pleased with the sale of the team to the Terry Pegula family, who has been so committed to Buffalo and the Western New York region,” said Mary Wilson, Ralph Wilson's widow and the team's controlling owner since his death.

Buffalo Fan Alliance Advisory Board Chair and Buffalo FAMbase President Del Reid talks about why he believes the Pegulas had the upper hand over the other reported bidders.

"They've shown the ability that they can be trusted," Reid told WBFO. "I've grown up under the umbrella of doubt that they might move someday. With the Pegulas, I think they bring that assurance."

"The Pegula family has shown a huge investment in the City of Buffalo over the past few years," Reid added. "I think this a win-win for the Pegulas and Western New York Bills fans."

Wilson, who died in March at the age of 95, purchased the franchise for $25,000 in 1960. The NFL Hall of Famer was one of the founding owners of the American Football League and owned the team for more than 54 years.

Pegula says he will have no further comment until league approval is attained "out of respect for the continuing sale process."

"When you have a combination of love for community, capacity, and love of sport, you really have a winning combination. I think the Pegulas represent that, and Buffalo and Western New York is fortunate to have them," Rep. Brian Higgins told WBFO News.

“From day one, keeping the Bills in Buffalo has been one of our administration’s top priorities, and reports that Terry and Kim Pegula have been chosen as the team’s new owners highlight a tremendous step toward making that goal a reality," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a statement Tuesday.