ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly still is trying to find his way into the team’s sale process.

But the Hall of Fame quarterback has sidled up to a partner who could help him.

Kelly and bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach met with the Bills’ trust Thursday in the Detroit area, site of Ralph Wilson Enterprises.

Two sources confirmed the meeting to The Buffalo News on condition of anonymity because the process is confidential.

Gundlach, from East Amherst, is CEO of DoubleLine Capital, a Los Angeles-based firm that oversees assets worth about $50 billion. Gundlach told the Wall Street Journal in 2011 it was his dream to buy the Bills and keep them in Western New York after Wilson’s death.

Gundlach might not have enough cash to take the lead in buying an NFL club, but sources told The News that he and Kelly met with the Bills’ trust in hopes of being matched as minority partners with a more formidable bidder.

The News also learned Friday the names of previously unreported parties who have been involved in the process. They include the Vancouver Canucks’ owners, the Toronto Raptors’ founder and heirs to the Hyatt Hotels fortune.

The News reported Thursday that the Bills’ trust had scheduled face-to-face meetings with between five and eight potential buyers, significantly more than the four widely known bidders: Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, the group led by rock star Jon Bon Jovi, billionaire developer Donald Trump and former Sabres owner Tom Golisano.

The Bills’ trust was alarmed by limited interest at the July 29 deadline for prospective owners to file nonbinding initial bids. The trust and the bank conducting the sale, Morgan Stanley, have circled back to coax involvement from more candidates.

Roughly 60 nondisclosure agreements were distributed after founder Ralph C. Wilson Jr. died in March. Only about a third of those were signed and returned.

John Bitove founded the Toronto Raptors and served as president of Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid. He is in the satellite-radio and restaurant businesses. Bitove owns hundreds of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchises across Canada.

The Aquilini family, owner of the Vancouver Canucks, investigated the Bills but declined to follow through with a purchase.

“I’m always exploring potential business opportunities and am passionate about the sport so this is something that interested me,” Canucks Chairman Francesco Aquilini said in a statement. “However, we are not planning to pursue the opportunity further.”

Another possible suitor is the Chicago-based Pritzker family, featuring 11 billionaires and owner of Hyatt Hotels. Karen Pritzker and her husband, Michael Vlock, big investors in Apple Inc., have backed real-estate projects in Buffalo.

The Bills’ trust has discussed a sale with the Pritzker/Vlock group as recently as this week, although it’s unknown if the group has signed the nondisclosure agreement.

The News also confirmed that food-and-beverage magnate Dean Metropoulos signed the trust’s nondisclosure agreement. Metropoulos was runner-up to Shad Khan for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.

email tgraham@buffnews.com