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George Gillett not expected to bid on Bills


Colorado businessman George Gillett, the former owner of the Montreal Canadiens, is not expected to make a run at purchasing the Buffalo Bills, The Buffalo News has learned.

Gillett, 75, has a long history of sports ownership, dating back to a 22 percent stake in the Miami Dolphins he purchased in 1966 for a little more than $1 million. Since then, he's also owned the Harlem Globetrotters, NASCAR's Evernham Motorsports, and Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, along with partner Tom Hicks.

Gillett is currently the chief operating officer of Booth Creek, a business management company specializing in ski resort operations and administration. In the past, he's had interests in the communications, meatpacking, automotive and ski industries, in addition to his sports ownership. The exact amount of Gillett's fortune is unknown -- it's been estimated at $700 million -- but in the past, he has used a financial tactic known as a leveraged buyout in his business transactions. That is the acquisition of another company using a significant amount of borrowed money.

In the case of his ownership with Liverpool, that backfired when one of Gillett's companies was sued for defaulting on a $70 million loan. Hicks and Gillett ultimately were forced to sell the club.

Gillett's rumored interest in the Bills originally made headlines in October 2011, when, according to local website Buffalo Rising, he attended a game at Ralph Wilson Stadium with Jim Kelly. Connecting the dots, he surfaced as a potential investor in the ownership group Kelly was long rumored to have put together.

Gillett, though, has taken a low profile in recent years -- he has not returned a message seeking comment -- and The News has learned it is unlikely he will make a bid on the Bills.

  • Ron Warren

    Jay, I am afraid you have omitted a very important number of pieces in George Gillett's most recent financial history that would not have him buying anything, let alone the Bills. When he put the Canadiens up for sale he did it out of necessity, he really didn't want to sell. The Canadiens were his only real money making sports venture and since he had a "falling out" with his partner in the Liverpool FC ownership, Tom Hicks(Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars) who himself, was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy and the $70 million note that you mentioned was coming due on the Liverpool FC purchase, his sports ventures were about to come abruptly to an end. This is a guy that has already had a previous bankruptcy in his past.

    His eventual sale of the Liverpool FC along with the Canadiens were to ultimately pay off a considerable amount of leveraged debt. The $700 million estimate of his worth is probably about $699 million too high.

    • Buffalo Bill Nelson

      Great post! The BN's best research, fact-checking and analysis is being conducted by its reader/bloggers. Gotta give Uberboss Buffet credit: profit margins skyrocket when you get free reporting. Wait! This breaking news has just arrived and the BN is the first to report it:

      WNY's own Buffalo Bill Nelson will not be bidding om the Bills as has been widely speculated. Anonymous sources report that the investment banking firm retained by Mr. Nelson have determined that his net assets are insufficient to bid on the team. Mr Nelson, who sees himself as a champion of the common Bills fan and has developed a strong cult following, as well as a strong opposition group comprised of taxpayers opposed to the use of public funds for professional sports ventures, was unavailable for comment. In the past he has responded to his opponents by saying that he has a bedrock belief "in using other people's money whenever possible. Rumors swirl that both political parties have contacted him to run for Erie County Commisioner. The BN will report further details as soon as our bloggers can get around to it.

      • Ron Warren

        Yes! My stomach is sore from laughing. However, rest assured that my anonymous, yet extremely reliable sources confirm that you are absolutely correct!

  • Buzz saw

    No offense to Mr Gillett, but honestly the guy is already 75. Do we want to have to go thru this again in a couple years? Why havent we heard anything on Pegula?

    • WHAT?

      Pegula has made statements in the past that he isn't really interested in the Bills unless it looks like a local owner can't be found. Why do people feel like he is in some way obligated to buy the team? He's already got enough headaches.

      • Buzz saw

        Pegula has made no such statements. He has said he would look at it if they became available. Well, theyre available. I didnt say anything that hes obligated, I only asked why we havent heard anything about him.

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.