The Buffalo Bills could have a new owner before the season is halfway over.
While much of the focus on the Bills’ future understandably has been on building a new stadium and the next owner being able to wriggle out of the lease in 2020, a high-ranking Bills source informed The Buffalo News the team’s sale is on a much faster track than many probably expected.
A sale must be approved by 75 percent of the owners, and that vote could take place as early as their annual October session. The Bills will start evaluating offers within the next few months.
The source said a more likely timetable to vote on the Bills’ sale would occur later than this autumn – perhaps at the annual labor meeting in December or the annual owners meeting in March – but October is possible.
The Bills’ founder and only owner, Ralph C. Wilson Jr., died last week. He was 95.
The Bills announced Thursday that his widow, Mary Wilson, has assumed control as the club’s principal owner. Mary Wilson, 68, became the seventh female principal owner in NFL history. Six of them are currently in charge.
The announcement was a formality. It establishes the club’s executive structure and begins the process for the team’s eventual sale.
NFL bylaws mandate every club must have a single principal owner. If anyone other than Mary Wilson had been announced controlling owner, then that would have been newsworthy.
A principal owner is required for voting on league matters but can assign that role to another executive. When Ralph Wilson couldn’t attend the NFL owners meetings in recent years, Bills President and Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon or Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Littmann would cast the team’s votes.
Brandon will retain his voting powers under Mary Wilson just as he did under her late husband.
A comment from Mary Wilson suggested no immediate changes will be made in the Bills’ operational structure.
“I have complete confidence in Russ Brandon, our president and CEO, to continue his duties of running the organization,” Mary Wilson said in a statement. “General Manager Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone remain empowered by Russ to run the football operation.”
The Bills’ statement said that the team is beginning “a period of transition” and that a “process will be established at an appropriate time for the sale of the franchise.”
“This process will ensure that the club complies and is faithful to NFL rules and to its obligations to New York State and Erie County,” the Bills’ statement read. “We plan to have detailed discussions with the NFL, the state and county, and others as we determine the timing and structure of any sales process.”
The Bills’ lease runs through 2023. The team essentially is locked into the lease with New York State and Erie County through the 2019 season, the first seven years of the lease agreement. In 2020, there is a one-year window in which the team can terminate the lease for a fee of $28 million.
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