Members of one of the Buffalo area’s wealthiest and most influential families are deeply engaged in discussions about the future of the Buffalo Bills, but a key member would not say whether they would make an offer for the team.
Jeremy M. Jacobs Jr., a principal with Delaware North Cos., the hospitality giant owned by his family and run by his father, did confirm that his family is involved behind the scenes in the effort to help keep the team in Western New York.
“We are using our resources, our contacts, our relationships to do everything we can to ensure the Bills stay in Buffalo,” Jacobs told The Buffalo News on Wednesday in the first interview with a member of the Jacobs family since the death of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr.
Asked directly whether those efforts could include making a bid for the team, or joining a group making an offer, Jacobs said he could not speculate and chose his words carefully.
“It’s still early in the process, and it’s impossible to say either way,” he said.
Aside from a statement released by Jeremy M. Jacobs Sr. on April 11, those are the first comments from a member of the Jacobs family since Wilson, 95, died March 25, setting off a flurry of conjecture about the future of Buffalo’s National Football League franchise.
The younger Jacobs’ remarks aligned with what he, and his father, have said in the past when asked about the chances that they would buy the team.
The Jacobs family has led the list of potential future owners, partly because of their close ties to the NFL – Delaware North has the concessions contracts at a number of NFL stadiums, including Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park – and their previous and current sports ownership.
Jeremy Jacobs Sr., who has a net worth of $3.1 billion according to Forbes magazine, owns the Boston Bruins and the TD Garden where the National Hockey League team plays, and he once owned the former Cincinnati Royals of the National Basketball Association after the death of his father, Louis Jacobs.
Jeremy Jacobs Jr. acknowledged it’s natural for the family and Delaware North come up in discussions of potential future owners of the team.
“We’re involved in the sports world. We’re a known entity in the sports world,” Jacobs said, noting that his father is chairman of the NHL’s Board of Governors, which represents the league’s owners.
Given how early we are in the process – the executors of Wilson’s estate have not yet selected the investment banking firm that will put together a portfolio on the team’s assets – it’s impossible to say who the serious contenders are to buy the team.
The names of Terry Pegula, current owner of the Buffalo Sabres; B. Thomas Golisano, former owner of the Sabres and founder of Paychex; and Robert E. Rich Jr., owner of Rich Products and the Buffalo Bisons baseball team – billionaires all, according to Forbes – have been floated as possible owners.
Jacobs declined to identify any potential owners and other interested parties with whom he and his family have been in contact.
“We’re, I would say, on the periphery of the conversation,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs did say those conversations have included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Jacobs said he knows Goodell through the company’s extensive business dealings with the Bills and other NFL clients.
“He knows of our concern. He knows our interest in keeping the team in Buffalo,” Jacobs said. He declined to identify other people with whom he has discussed the Bills.
Any involvement by the Jacobs family or Delaware North in the Bills is complicated by the fact that the family owns the NHL’s Boston Bruins and has extensive gaming holdings.
The NFL bars its owners from owning a team in another sports league in another NFL city. In other words, the Bills owner couldn’t own the Detroit Red Wings, because Detroit has the NFL’s Lions, but could own the Columbus Blue Jackets because there’s no NFL team there. Further, NFL owners may own an NHL or NBA team in their own market.
Jeremy Jacobs Sr. has said he would not sell the Bruins in order to buy the Bills.
The NFL also has strict regulations barring ownership of casinos, racetracks and other gaming interests.