BUFFALO — Donald Trump never did run for governor of New York. But now he may be on to his next project: buying the Buffalo Bills.
"It's very serious," Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy said. "He's long had an interest in professional sports."
Langworthy, who met with Trump in Manhattan on Monday, said the billionaire is "doing all due diligence" as he considers making an offer to purchase the franchise. The acquisition would be close to $1 billion, Langworthy said, although it's unclear at this point if Trump would work by himself or with an ownership group to make a bid.
"If he wanted to buy the Bills himself," said Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Trump. "It would not be a problem."
Two weeks ago, at a rally against the SAFE Act in Albany, Trump made a vague reference to the Bills, only telling reporters that "a lot of people" had talked to him about pursuing ownership. Of course, it was also only a month ago that Trump finally announced he would not challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo after a long, public period of indecisiveness that drew harsh comments from Republican candidate Rob Astorino.
But Cohen said Trump is already in touch with both the Bills and the National Football League, and he said he's now waiting to learn the full value of the franchise before proceeding.
According to Langworthy, Trump has no interest in moving the Bills to another location after the team's current lease expires.
"He has made it quite clear that if he purchases the team, he intends to keep it in Buffalo," Langworthy said. "And he believes he's the only owner or ownership group who'd come forward and say that."
There is a potential road block from the NFL, however. The league's anti-gambling stance may not mesh with Trump's involvement in Trump Entertainment Resorts, a casino and hotel company. However, despite bearing Trump's name, Langworthy said Trump has no managing authority and already sold a "massive portion" of his casino holdings. At this point, Langworthy said Trump simply owns common stock in the publicly-traded company.
Cohen also added that years ago, Trump received the publicly-traded stock in exchange for the naming rights after he sold his casino holdings.
Cohen and Langworthy both said Trump would have no problem selling that stock, if necessary.
"We talked about that for some time today," Langworthy said.
If Trump's interest is genuine, expect the process to move forward at a rapid pace. Langworthy said it's entirely possible the franchise could have a new owner by the fall — whether it's Trump or another individual or group.
"It seems to be something that will happen in a matter of just a few months," Langworthy said. "The team and trust are currently putting appropriate paperwork together, and the evaluation of the team, before they formally solicit bids for the purchase."
Spewak writes for WGRZ-TV in Buffalo