Donald Trump insists he's not fooling around, Bills interest is real
Donald Trump knows people doubt his sincerity about the Buffalo Bills.
Skeptics have scoffed at his declared interest in buying the Bills. They assert it's a publicity stunt so the billionaire entrepreneur, entertainer and political flirt can remain in the headlines.
Trump today stressed he's committed to buying the Bills and keeping them in Western New York. Multiple sources confirmed he already has spoken to Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon twice.
"I'm going to give it a heavy shot," Trump told me by phone this afternoon from his office in Manhattan. "I would love to do it, and if I can do it I'm keeping it in Buffalo."
Trump also wanted to erase any thoughts he might move the team to Los Angeles or Toronto. He spoke about the loyalty of Bills fans and the team's importance to the region.
But Trump also has a selfish reason for leaving the Bills here. His Boeing 757 could leave LaGuardia Airport and deplane at Prior Aviation in an hour.
"I live in New York, and it's easier for me to go to Buffalo than any other place," Trump said. "Where am I going to move it, some place on the other side of the country, where I have to travel for five hours?"
Trump so far has been the only ownership candidate to publicly state his desire to buy the Bills.
Rock star Jon Bon Jovi reportedly could be the front man for Toronto company Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, but nobody from that supposed group has spoken definitively for the record.
Other potential suitors who've yet to comment one way or the other are Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and former Sabres owner Tom Golisano.
Jeremy Jacobs, of East Aurora, has stated through his Delaware North Companies that he won't sell his Boston Bruins to buy the Bills, as would be required under the NFL's cross-ownership rules. But Delaware North didn't specify anything about his children being interested.
Some Western New Yorkers might have trouble warming up to Trump's advances. They've had their emotions toyed with before.
Trump acknowledged his past ditherings with presidential and gubernatorial campaigns weren't entirely plausible. His business and broadcast endeavors took precedence.
"I'm not like a politician," Trump said. "Some of these guys, they professionally run for office and raise money and live off it. I have a big business, a great business."
Accumulating colossal properties, meanwhile, is what Trump always has done.
Trump indicated he's willing to get into a competitive bidding process for the Bills. He noted his established track record of beating out multiple bidders on high-profile acquisitions.
In a few weeks, for instance, Trump's company will begin $200 million in renovations to turn the historic Old Post Office Pavilion between the White House and U.S. Capitol into a luxury hotel. Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, are paying $250,000 a month to rent the building as part of a 60-year lease with the federal government.
"I won the Old Post Office over everybody, 18 companies," Trump said. "Everybody wanted it. I won it."
Forbes magazine estimates Trump is worth $3.9 billion, but sources close to him claim he's worth almost three times that.
"I have a track record that's pretty much unparalleled," Trump said, "but that doesn't mean that I pay stupid prices.
"Somebody could come out and bid through the roof for the Bills, something crazy. In which case, I'm sorry I can't do anything about that. You have to be sane. But maybe there's not going to be any other bids. You never know with these things."
Asked for his impressions about how soon the Bills could be sold, Trump replied, "I think it's going to go quickly. I hope it goes fast."
High-ranking Bills sources have told me a sale could be finalized as soon as October, the earliest NFL owners could vote on it, although approval more likely would happen at the December or March meeting.
Trump insisted his casino dealings wouldn't impede his purchase and denied any bad blood still exists from the USFL's $1.7 billion antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in 1984.
The NFL prohibits all personnel -- from owners all the way down to the assistant equipment manager -- to have any involvement with gambling operations. Trump's name is on two Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Taj Mahal and the Trump Plaza, but he said he owns only a small stake in those properties anymore.
"It's a public company, and I could sell instantaneously," Trump said. "So that wouldn't be a conflict at all.
"I did very well with Atlantic City. It was a great experience. When we sold the casinos, they didn't change the name. But I'm not involved, not on the board."
Trump also said his legal history with the NFL would be a non-issue.
Trump bought the New Jersey Generals and was the USFL's driving force behind switching from the spring to direct competition with the NFL in the fall.
"I think the NFL owners respected me for it because I took a dead league and made it hot," Trump said. "But my thing when I bought the team was, 'I will not play football in the spring.'
"Even if they would have teetered along for another couple years, it wouldn't have survived in the spring. And if I hadn't gotten involved, they wouldn't have lasted another season.
"The NFL owners that I know and are very honest about it, they'll tell you I did a good job and they have respect for me. And I have respect for them."