Bills owner Wilson says team will be sold after he dies

Updated: June 17, 2007, 4:56 PM ET
Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. ---- The first and only owner of the Buffalo Bills has no plans to sell the team in his lifetime.

Ralph Wilson told The Buffalo News that the team will be sold after he dies and that he does not plan to leave the Bills to his wife, Mary.

"I think she's capable and she could do it, but it would be tough," the 88-year-old said. "My daughters are interested in the game, but they're not going to own the team."

Wilson knows the future of the Bills is a concern for fans, who don't want an outsider to buy the team and move it to another city.

"It is the situation as it always has been [the team] will be sold," Wilson said. "It hasn't changed. I know the people are jumpy there. But I get jumpy the more I hear about it."

If Wilson did leave the team to his daughters they would likely struggle to pay estate taxes -- 45 percent of the value of the franchise -- on the team valued at about $600 million.

Wilson said it's possible that the next owner could be someone who would want to keep the Bills in Buffalo, but he's not willing to speculate beyond that.

"There's so much liquidity that's floating around the country now," Wilson said. "Look at the stock market, it's gone up, up, up. It's not on dividends. Somebody hopes they'll buy a stock and somebody will come along and pay them a little more for it. So they'll sell it. You don't know. There may be somebody who will come along in Buffalo and buy it. You can't tell. I can't guess the future and nobody can."

He bought the franchise for $25,000 in 1959. It was valued at $627 million last year in Forbes magazine.

The Bills' lease with Erie County runs through the 2012 season, but it would be easy to break if bought out under the terms of the agreement.

If the team was sold, a relocation would be subject to the approval of the other NFL owners.

Wilson said he would not consider selling part of the team to someone in Western New York while he's still alive to give that person the chance to eventually take over the club.

"That's absolutely out," he said.

Wilson spent the past year fighting for revenue sharing to protect the rights of small-market NFL teams.

He has said it's unfair for small-market teams to back new stadium projects because they don't equally share in the revenues the facilities generate. Wilson said it's doubly unfair to small-market teams because new facilities increase the salary cap, and the Bills are a team that can't keep up with escalating salaries.

The Bills, also by comparison, can't generate much more revenue in an economically troubled region such as western New York.

Wilson has a lot invested in his team. He spent the first two weeks of the offseason spring workouts on the sidelines, watching the team practice from a golf cart.

"Football keeps me going," Wilson said. "At my stage in the game, you've got to have something."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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