Jon Bon Jovi, facing credibility issues over his intentions for the Buffalo Bills, has emerged to declare his group’s commitment to keeping the team in Western New York.
The rock star broke his silence in a letter provided exclusively to The Buffalo News. The purpose of the letter was “to clarify our intentions to the fans of the team and people of Buffalo,” Bon Jovi wrote.
Bon Jovi is the frontman of a Toronto-anchored group that includes Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment executive Larry Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers of Canadian telecommunications colossus Rogers Communications.
In the letter, Bon Jovi emphasized that his objective would be to keep the Bills in Western New York by building a “state-of-the-art NFL stadium for the loyal Bills fans” and honoring the legacy of late founder Ralph C. Wilson Jr.
“I know how much the Bills mean to the people of this region,” Bon Jovi wrote. “So I want you to hear this from me: I’m not risking it all to let you down.
“If we are given the chance to be the next owners of the Buffalo Bills, I promise you that we will bring the same passion that you do every Sunday, every day.”
Bon Jovi’s group on Tuesday made a non-binding initial bid to buy the Bills. So did Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, as well as developer Donald Trump.
Bon Jovi’s letter, titled “Why We’re Bidding on the Buffalo Bills,” left many questions unanswered while declaring his love for football and his appreciation for Bills fans.
Bon Jovi did not reveal any specifics about his group or indicate how high it can bid before he would need to sacrifice controlling ownership.
The NFL’s constitution and bylaws mandate the principal owner invest at least 30 percent of the team’s purchase price. The Bills are expected to break the NFL’s franchise record of $1.1 billion for the Miami Dolphins in 2009.
Western New York has become a toxic environment for Bon Jovi and his Toronto group.
But he promised a commitment to the Bills and Buffalo.
“My family and I are prepared to make this life-changing commitment to be part of the Bills,” Bon Jovi wrote. “This is not a hobby or an acquisition. Building a winner on and off the field will be job one and I intend to spend as much time on the ground in Buffalo as needed to accomplish that goal.”
County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz told the Associated Press two weeks ago he doesn’t believe the Bon Jovi group would keep the Bills in Western New York. Bars have established themselves as Bon Jovi music-free zones.
And Bills receiver Andre Reed in a New York magazine story two weeks ago let it be known how he feels about Bon Jovi ownership of the team.
“You might as well just take this city, throw it in the river, and let it go down Niagara Falls,” Reed said, if the Bon Jovi group bought the Bills.
For decades, Bills fans have worried their team would move after Wilson’s death. Los Angeles, without an NFL team since the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season, was the primary fear.
But Toronto evolved into a more legitimate threat during the past few years. Wilson in 2008 sold a package of Toronto preseason and regular-season games to Rogers Communications for $78 million. The agreement was extended last year but then abandoned after one more game.
While the agreement was considered disastrous for the Bills on the field and for the Rogers Centre at the box office, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken about Toronto being worthy of a club someday.
The Bills are frequently mentioned for fulfilling that sentiment, given the team’s proximity and uncertain ownership future.
By joining Toronto businessmen who have coveted landing a team north of the border, Bon Jovi became the face of that threat.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment hired Tim Leiweke as CEO last year to help the company bring an NFL team to Toronto.
Leiweke and Bon Jovi are close friends. Leiweke previously worked for Anschutz Entertainment Group, owners of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings. He tried to bring the NFL to L.A. Bon Jovi concerts have opened AEG venues.
Former Bills safety Donte Whitner recently taunted fans on Twitter by declaring their team will be moving to Toronto soon.
Bon Jovi is trying to curtail such thoughts.
“Our objective is simple: to carry on the legacy of Ralph Wilson and make the Bills successful in Buffalo,” Bon Jovi wrote.