Wilson rethinks who will succeed him as Bills' owner

Updated: April 9, 2006, 7:14 PM ET
Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Ralph Wilson is reconsidering plans on who eventually will succeed him in owning the Buffalo Bills, saying selling the team might not be the best option under the NFL's new labor deal.

Speaking to reporters Sunday after meeting with Sen. Charles Schumer, Wilson said the new collective bargaining agreement could restrict any prospective Bills buyer from receiving revenue-sharing assistance, making it financially difficult to keep the team in Buffalo.

"Before, I was going to sell the team or something," Wilson said. "But I don't know now. This has changed everything."

Wilson repeated concerns about the Bills' long-term future.

"I have always said, always, that I would never move the team from Buffalo," Wilson said. "Now, with this new collective bargaining agreement, I'm hopeful that I can steadfastly adhere to what I've said. But I'm making no promises."

Wilson, who turns 88 in October, is now considering the possibility of one of his family members succeeding him as owner. That's something he had ruled out in the past, saying his wife, Mary, and three daughters had expressed no interest in running the team.

The NFL is still determining how teams will qualify for the labor deal's new revenue-sharing model. The league is considering a proposal that would prevent new owners from initially taking part in the program.

That worries Wilson because the Bills are among the NFL's smaller markets and rely on revenue sharing to stay competitive.

"The next new owner couldn't keep the team here," Wilson told The Associated Press after the press conference with Schumer. "It could not be fair. It's not a fair proposal. ... They're changing things on me."

The Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals cast the only votes against the agreement last month.

Schumer's visit to Buffalo was the latest in a series of meetings over the past week for Wilson in an attempt to generate political pressure on the NFL to ensure the viability of small-market teams. Wilson also met with Gov. George Pataki, western New York congressmen Tom Reynolds and Brian Higgins and Erie County executive Joel Giambra.

Schumer said he intends to express his concerns to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. He said he also intends to gather his colleagues, whose areas include small-market teams, in an attempt to meet with NFL executives.

"The bottom line is very simple. The smaller teams in the league, because of the new contract, are going to have a very tough time of making it," Schumer said. "I hope the NFL hasn't lost its way. I hope it sticks with the original model where smaller market teams can compete, can win Super Bowls and stay financially viable."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press