The Buffalo Bills are one important phase closer to having a new owner.
The Bills on Wednesday selected the financial and legal firms that will handle the team’s sale.
Morgan Stanley has the bankers. Proskauer Rose has the lawyers.
The announcements aren’t sexy developments. They don’t reveal who will purchase the club, how soon the transaction will happen or whether the Bills will remain in Western New York beyond their stadium lease with Erie County.
But these Manhattan firms will handle the most significant work when it comes to selling the Bills, in particular maximizing the financial return for Ralph Wilson’s estate and making sure the sale complies with the NFL’s constitution and bylaws.
“This is a big step,” Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon said. “Now everything’s in place.”
Morgan Stanley and Proskauer Rose will conduct an audit of the team and assemble a data book for prospective buyers to review. The Bills announced in a news release their advisers will begin contacting prospective buyers within the next 30 days.
The firms will vet candidates and present a recommendation for the trust that has been overseeing the Bills since Wilson’s death in March.
“We’ll step aside and let them do their thing,” Brandon said.
A source familiar with the Bills’ sale told The Buffalo News it’s overly ambitious and unlikely the process will conclude in time for a vote at the NFL’s next owners meetings in October.
K. Don Cornwell, managing director of Morgan Stanley’s mergers and acquisition department, is a prominent sports-business broker.
Cornwell helped facilitate the 2012 sale of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors – and potential suitors of the Bills. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan sold its controlling stake in MLSE to Bell and Rogers Communications.
MLSE Chairman Larry Tanenbaum and rock star Jon Bon Jovi reportedly are interested in teaming up to buy the Bills. Two NFL owners informed The News at this week’s spring meeting in Atlanta they fully anticipate Bon Jovi being part of a group that submits a bid.
Other Morgan Stanley sports transactions include the $2.4 billion sale of sports talent and marketing agency IMG to William Morris Endeavor, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and a restructuring of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Proskauer Rose has been involved with sales of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets and baseball’s Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals.
The firm also has been involved in big-league collective bargaining. It has successfully represented the ATP Tour and Major League Soccer against lawsuits.
The Proskauer Rose website also mentions that its entertainment division has represented Bon Jovi’s musical group.