If Donald Trump’s “very serious” effort to buy the Buffalo Bills eventually succeeds, he might chalk it up to his not-so-serious flirtation with running for governor this year.
Trump now counts among his new best friends several local Republicans who were regularly gathering in his Trump Tower office to urge a run against Andrew Cuomo. That didn’t happen.
But an offshoot of that effort now includes Trump’s focus on what he does best – making deals. And if ever a megadeal intrigues the billionaire businessman, it’s the possibility of entering that oh-so-exclusive club called NFL ownership.
“People were begging him to do something he had never done before – running for office,” noted East Aurora political consultant Michael Caputo. “Now he’s courting us to do something he’s done all his life – making a deal.”
Caputo is among an unpaid trio of Western New Yorkers who never dreamed of even meeting “The Donald” just a few months ago. Now they are very much a part of Trump’s effort to occupy the owner’s box at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
As he handles communications for the newest Trump deal, Caputo is joined by Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy – assigned to any political or governmental phase. Republican lawyer and party insider Emilio Colaiacovo is Trump’s legal guy on the ground in Buffalo.
It all stemmed from the attempt to woo Trump into running for governor by Western New Yorkers like East Aurora Assemblyman David DiPietro. Caputo recalled that DiPietro first broached the idea of Trump owning the Bills as an offhand remark during their first Manhattan meeting in December – several months before owner Ralph Wilson’s death on March 25. Caputo said Trump perked right up. The idea surfaced again during Trump’s Jan. 31 visit for a Langworthy fundraiser.
“I believe the success of his trip in January had a lot to do with his interest,” Caputo said. “The way we rolled out Buffalo for him made him feel welcome and as a place he’d like to do business. He’s as much as said that.”
Langworthy knows a thing or two about making deals. Party leaders have been known to dabble in such practices. Now Trump believes Langworthy can help, and the chairman has signed on.
“This has nothing to do with politics; we’re just trying to keep the team here,” Langworthy said, noting Trump’s vow for the Bills to remain in Buffalo. “If we can somehow help Donald Trump do that, we’d love to see him become owner of the team.”
If Caputo faced a challenge speaking for Carl Paladino’s wild and woolly campaign for governor in 2010, representing Trump could “trump” that. Few local priorities rank higher than keeping the Bills in Buffalo, and fans crave an owner committed to not only winning but the long term, too. They worry about any attempt to feed an ego. And many question Trump’s seriousness, especially after only toying with running for governor.
“When he is in his element and the price is right, he almost always wins out,” Caputo counters. “This is an arena in which Donald Trump plays well.”
Caputo said Trump regularly speaks with top Bills officials and an experienced Trump Tower staff is ready to enter the process.
“As opposed to politics, this is very sober and direct,” he said. “This isn’t like courting county chairs.”
Langworthy, meanwhile, never believed the effort to challenge Cuomo this year would mean dealing with one of the world’s most famous businessmen knocking on the door of the world’s most exclusive club.
“Hey, I’m from South Dayton, N.Y., and never thought I’d be involved in something like this,” he said. “But in this line of work, I’ve had to scratch my head a few times.”
Langworthy believes Trump seeks the Bills not only for the sake of the deal, but also for the sake of the team’s importance to Buffalo.
“He said to us just the other day,” Langworthy recalled, “that ‘maybe I met you Buffalo guys for a reason.’ ”