A Canadian businessman, an obscure public document and a mysterious informer are fueling the latest suspicions that Jon Bon Jovi’s group would move the Buffalo Bills to Toronto.
But this time, it’s in writing, a Bills fan group said Thursday.
While Bon Jovi and his Toronto group pursuing the purchase of the franchise are trying to convince the community they are committed to keeping the team here, the Buffalo Fan Alliance believes it has uncovered documents that say otherwise.
Its smoking gun is deep within corporate documents filed in Canada and includes a brief bio of Rajiv “Roger” Rai, an official associated with Rogers Communications, part of the prospective ownership group.
“Roger,” the document states, “assists in the sports ownership affairs of Rogers Communications and was responsible for the acquisition of the Toronto Blue Jays and is part of the ownership group attempting to acquire and move the Buffalo Bills to Toronto.”
In other developments Thursday, The Buffalo News learned that at least two suitors from Los Angeles signed the nondisclosure agreement but gave up after discovering how much opposition there was to moving the team.
The News has confirmed billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth $6.9 billion, signed the nondisclosure agreement to review the Bills’ confidential data in contemplation of buying the team.
But sources say the 81-year-old Broad – who has been vocal about bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles – examined the Bills and came away discouraged about moving the team because the NFL and too many powerful politicians are against it.
“Mr. Broad is not interested in pursuing a purchase of the Buffalo Bills at this time,” said Broad spokeswoman Karen Denne.
The latest development related to the Toronto group once again raises speculation about the intent of frontman Bon Jovi and partners Ed Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum, said Matthew Sabuda, a real estate investor and director of the Buffalo Fan Alliance. “This is the first time we’ve ever seen it in print, especially in the form of a public filing,” Sabuda said of the group’s interest in moving the team to Toronto. “We felt it was something the public needed to see.”
“This casts further doubt on their commitment to Western New York,” Sabuda said of the document.
“Without an ironclad commitment to the Western New York community, I don’t see how any Bills fan could get behind a group that included Jon Bon Jovi, Larry Tanenbaum and Ed Rogers.”
This comes after Bon Jovi and the Toronto group has tried to win fan support and squash widespread speculation it would move the team.
The Buffalo News on Aug. 3 published an open-letter to Bills fans in which Bon Jovi said the Toronto-based group he fronts would be committed to keeping the team in Buffalo. “Our objective is simple,” Bon Jovi wrote, “to carry on the legacy of Ralph Wilson and make the Bills successful in Buffalo.”
Then, the Toronto Sun reported the group’s original bid was rejected, in part, because it failed to make assurances the team would remain in Western New York for the long haul.
The group, however, was reportedly allowed to rebid and met with the Bills trust this week.
Rai told the Associated Press he is not involved with the group’s ownership bid.
The references connecting him to the proposed Bills purchase were “a mistake on my behalf” and the result of a misinterpretation made by a co-worker who wrote the biography, he said.
Rai also told the AP he first became aware of the mistake in July when a news release announcing his appointment to the board of Pinetree Capital included the same statement.
In that case, a news release distribution service in Toronto issued an edited version the next day, eliminating the section about relocating the Bills to Toronto, Sabuda said.
But he’s not buying it.
“It’s very difficult to wrap our head around that it was a simple mistake, because it was a public document. It had to be viewed and vetted,” Sabuda said.
“It seems unlikely or implausible that inaccurate information would find its way into this kind of document.”
The information was included within documents that public companies and investment funds are required to file with regulatory authorities in Canada.
Buffalo Fan Alliance – a nonprofit created to provide lending to prospective buyers of the team – only learned about this latest twist last week when Sabuda was tipped off by an anonymous emailer.
“I’m hoping it was a well-intentioned Bills fan,” Sabuda said.