Billionaire Donald Trump says he wants to buy the Buffalo Bills, despite his past failures with the United States Football League. He has reportedly met with Bills officials several times and is seriously considering making an offer, but first plans to examine the full value of the franchise. Incidentally, a group headed by rocker Jon Bon Jovi expressed its desire to acquire the franchise right around the same time.
This would be Trump’s second foray into ownership of a professional football franchise. His brief three-year stint as owner of the New Jersey Generals of the USFL ended in disaster when he pushed for the league to move from playing a spring schedule to a fall schedule, thus competing directly with the National Football League. Trump and the USFL also filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL simultaneously, claiming it had a monopoly on television broadcasting rights. In 1985, the NFL was found to have violated antitrust laws and was forced to pay the ridiculous sum of $3. But sensing they had no chance against the NFL, teams began closing up shop one by one and the league folded one year later.
Many blamed Trump and his ego for the league’s collapse, saying his true motivation was his New Jersey Generals being absorbed by the NFL. Whatever happened to the USFL’s other franchises, they believed, he had little concern for. Unsurprisingly, he now minimizes his role in the league’s demise. The USFL, he said, was already failing when he came in and would not have lasted another season if he had not gotten involved.
According to reports, Trump has no desire to move the team from Buffalo to another location, even though longtime owner Ralph Wilson, who passed away last month, has an agreement that would keep the Bills in Buffalo until the year 2020. Living in New York, he said, and keeping the team in Buffalo would just make it easier for him, as opposed to moving the team to another locale.
But there are a few things that could keep the deal from even happening. The NFL’s anti-gambling policy, for one, might not look too favorably on his hotel and casino endeavors. However, it has been reported that Trump’s only current involvement with his casino business is his name and he has no managing authority. There is also the issue of having to be voted into one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet. The NFL states that the sale of any team must be approved by 75 percent of its owners, meaning 24 of 32 would need to be in favor of the new buyer.
As for money, Trump’s estimated net worth is $3.9 billion. A list compiled by Forbes of all 32 NFL teams ranks the Bills at no. 30, worth $870 million. Insiders estimate that the purchasing price would be closer to $1 billion. If a bidding war were to ensue with Bon Jovi, Trump would likely have the upper hand. NFL ownership rules dictate that groups include at least one person who owns at least 30 percent of the team. At an estimated net worth of $300 million, that would leave Bon Jovi out of the mix.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat