Jim Kelly, Jon Bon Jovi have discussed joining forces to buy the Bills
Updated 12:59 PM , June 23, 2015
In an act of mutual desperation, the Jon Bon Jovi and Jim Kelly groups have had conversations about joining forces in pursuit of the Buffalo Bills.
Multiple sources on both sides of the border have told The Buffalo News that Bon Jovi and his Toronto-based partners reached out to Kelly within the past five days for a Hail Mary attempt to help salvage their beleaguered bid.
Kelly, unable to hook on with anybody else, has at least considered the possibility.
The News was unable to confirm where discussions between the groups stood Saturday night. But sources in Western New York, Toronto and Manhattan said talks have occurred.
Kelly and his brother, Dan Kelly, have met with several potential ownership groups since Ralph Wilson died in March, but the Kellys haven't been able to strike a bidding partnership.
The Kellys and bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach, an Amherst High grad, met with the Bills' trust Aug. 7. How much money the Kellys have raised with Gundlach and the terms of their association aren't known. But they apparently haven't accumulated enough to be a bidder. They instead asked the trust to match them with an established group.
Whether Gundlach was involved in Jim Kelly's talks with Bon Jovi is unclear.
Two sources familiar with the sales process told The News the Kellys have made lofty partnership demands: 2 percent equity in the team, lifetime jobs for Jim and Dan, an up-front cash payment for their services and final say on all football decisions.
Two sources said Donald Trump, a Bills bidder and longtime Kelly friend from their USFL days, found those terms unacceptable.
Another source said it was believed the Kellys will give up football decision-making if they join the Bon Jovi group.
Dan Kelly did not return calls or texts seeking comment.
Morgan Stanley, the bank overseeing the sale for the Bills' trust, did not return an email asking for comment. The Bon Jovi group, Jim Kelly and Gundlach each signed a nondisclosure agreement with the trust and would need written permission to speak about a Bills purchase.
(UPDATE: After this story was published, a Morgan Stanley spokesperson contacted The News to say, "No comment.")
The Kellys have not met with Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and his wife, Kim. The Pegulas are considered front-runners to own the Bills.
It was Kelly's backup, Frank Reich, who orchestrated the famous playoff victory known simply as The Comeback. The Bon Jovi group thinks Kelly could pull off what many would consider an even bigger Bills miracle.
Bon Jovi's bid is in dire need of a public-relations boost after a series of missteps that have only deepened skepticism.
Kelly certainly would help. The Hall of Fame quarterback led the Bills to four straight Super Bowls. He has been an inspiring figure over the years as he dealt with his son's death and recurring cancer.
Kelly theoretically would vouch for the group's integrity and sincerity about keeping the Bills in Western New York.
The Bon Jovi group has credibility issues. Fans and politicians are convinced it would move the Bills to Toronto. The group includes Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and the family behind Canadian behemoth Rogers Communications.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke was hired last year to help bring the NFL to Toronto. Rogers Communications paid the Bills to stage preseason and regular-season games in Toronto from 2008 through 2013.
Bon Jovi, trying to neutralize public disdain, addressed Bills fans in a letter to The News two weeks ago. The decision backfired. Bon Jovi made no guarantees the team would stay. Too many questions remained unanswered.
The Buffalo Fan Alliance on Thursday produced documents that listed Rogers Communications consultant Roger Rai as part of an ownership group "attempting to acquire and move the Buffalo Bills to Toronto."
A source close to the Bon Jovi group told The News on Friday there was "major tension" within it. Another source formerly involved in the sales process said the Bon Jovi group is "unfocused and disorganized."