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Newly-discovered term in Bills lease doesn’t really change anything

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It’s as if no one with access to the new Bills lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium decided to read it during Ralph Wilson’s lifetime.

In the wake of Wilson’s passing last month, it became clear that the agreement absolutely prevents relocation through the 2019 season, unless the owner of the team is prepared to trade his mansion for a cell and his wardrobe for a jumpsuit.  Now, John Kryk of the Toronto Sun reports that the Wilson estate can’t sell the team to an ownership group that intends to move the franchise.

Section 3(b) of the lease states that the Bills may not “sell, assign or otherwise transfer the team to any person who, to the Bills’ knowledge, has an intention to relocate, transfer or otherwise move the team . . . .”

Without access to a full copy of the full lease, it’s impossible to know whether the team can be sold to someone who intends to relocate in compliance with the terms of the agreement.  For example, the lease includes a one-time out clause in 2020, for the mere payment of $28.4 million.  That clause would be meaningless if the next owner didn’t have the ability to, you know, use it.

Regardless, it’s a provision that changes nothing about the dynamics of the inevitable sale of the team.  Will the buyer make known his or her intention to move the team?  Or will the buyer profess to the universe prior to and upon consummation of the deal that the buyer intends to keep the team in Buffalo?

The smart money is on the latter, because plenty of money will be lost if the Bills end up spending multiple lame-duck seasons in Buffalo.  So a buyer that intends to eventually move the team, either in 2020 or in 2023 after the lease expires, will say nothing about a desire to move until the time comes to move.  And then the excuse will be, “Well, I wanted to stay in Buffalo but the long-term economics made it clear that I have to move to a bigger market.”

Making the clause even more meaningless is the phrase “to the Bills’ knowledge,” which allows the current owners to steer clear of any problem by deliberately avoiding information that could lead a reasonable person to conclude that the buyer may move the team.  (Possibly by jamming an index finger into each ear and repeatedly proclaiming, “I’m not listening.”)

As a result, the latest newly-discovered clause changes nothing.  The Bills won’t be leaving until 2020 at the very earliest.  More likely, it will happen at some point after the current lease expires.  Unless in the interim there’s a new lease or a new stadium.

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22 Responses to “Newly-discovered term in Bills lease doesn’t really change anything”
  1. m3dman3 says: Apr 29, 2014 8:28 AM

    You forgot to finish with, the Bills won’t be leaving Buffalo ever.

  2. bullcharger says: Apr 29, 2014 8:42 AM

    I am sure there is a way to move the team before 2020.

    There is no lease that cannot be broken if the financial tems are right. The money that could be earned in a better market may far out weigh what needs to be paid to get out of the lease.

  3. jpaq68 says: Apr 29, 2014 8:58 AM

    Sooner or later they’ll be gone.

  4. jtrysnicky says: Apr 29, 2014 8:59 AM

    Anyone in Buffalo or anyone that follows the team knew this was the case when the lease was signed. So when Ralph died, we knew they weren’t going anywhere until 2020. All this talk about moving before then since he passed was ridiculous. Glad you finally brought it up Mike. Now let’s turn this team around and get back to glory!

  5. bonerchamp says: Apr 29, 2014 9:02 AM

    We want to keep this team in Buffalo so we can reach 20 straight years of playoff-less football!

  6. billsfan1 says: Apr 29, 2014 9:11 AM

    This actually change everything

  7. chewingwax says: Apr 29, 2014 9:15 AM

    Wouldn’t an ownership group from Toronto have the intent to relocate to Toronto implied automatically? That’s what’s changed.

  8. billsfan1 says: Apr 29, 2014 9:15 AM

    They absolutely could get it put into the contract to sell that the team doesn’t move. That’s what happened for the Sabres.

  9. cjspiller12 says: Apr 29, 2014 9:22 AM

    Bye, Bye Bon Jovi!!!!!

  10. theflyingelvis says: Apr 29, 2014 9:40 AM

    The Bills MUST stay in Buffalo. The fact that they’re a smaller market team would not be a reasonable excuse for a new owner because of the way the league is structured. With the enormous T.V. contracts and revenue sharing, among other things, its not like the Bills are exactly hurting for money. Also, it seems like the smaller market teams have some of the most loyal, die hard fans, and to my knowledge, RWS is sold out for every Bills home game. Finally, the Bills are one of the cornerstone franchises in the NFL because of their history, specifically the teams and Ralph Wilson role in helping make the NFL what it is today through the AFL-NFL merger. It would be a shame if the Bills were to ever leave Buffalo.

  11. luther6 says: Apr 29, 2014 9:41 AM

    The phrase “to the Bills’ knowledge” will also mean what they should have known. In other words, if a prospective buyer is publicly known as someone likely to relocate the team, the county and state appears to have the legal means, per the lease, to enjoin purchase by that prospective buyer.

  12. gmsalpha says: Apr 29, 2014 10:03 AM

    I believe Toronto would have a much better chance than Los Angeles of getting ahold of the Bills. Buffalo already plays some games north of the border, and “true fans” would still be able to get to a few games per year, as it’s not that far away. It’d be a much easier sell. I don’t know the Toronto stadium situation, but surely the Bills can’t play in the SkyDome, as it’s multi-purpose and well….a dome. Yes, its roof is retractable, but very old and not up to par with the current crop of NFL stadiums. That situation would need to be rectified, but Toronto is a HUGE market.

  13. joenash72 says: Apr 29, 2014 10:48 AM

    GOooooooooooooo Bills!!!!!

  14. jeffreyshulenburg says: Apr 29, 2014 11:22 AM

    If not used for relocation, the out clause could still be used to force renegotiation of the terms or to create a lease for a new stadium. The clause is not solely for relocation.

  15. orion197734 says: Apr 29, 2014 11:38 AM

    I highly doubt mary wilson will sell to anyone she doesnt think will keep the team in buffalo. I think she’ll respect her late husbands wishes.

  16. joetoronto says: Apr 29, 2014 12:13 PM

    Again, people talking with their hearts and not their heads.

    This is business, if the team really couldn’t be moved then guess what, it’s worthless.

    Think about that for a second and then say “Hello Toronto.” :)

  17. allidoiswin55 says: Apr 29, 2014 12:21 PM

    This condition is completely bs . They can and will move the team regardless of this information . I’ll explain one example kind of long sorry .

    The Seattle super sonics moving to OKC. Nationally you thought they weren’t getting support however you fail to know this . Upon Howard Shultz selling of the team their was a clause that the team can NOT be moved . Their was also a deal with the arena that the team must fulfill upon leaving very similar to this stadium and sale clause .

    All the buying party needs to do is promise not to sell them or relocate to be approved of buying said team . Upon purchasing they can now pursue money generated through the team . They have the right to upgrade the arena in any fashion they see fit and will convince you fans and the league itself
    that they are at a disadvantage unless they do so .

    Upon remodel ideas and outfits of new arenas and or areas to be built one all they have to do at this point is prove they are not getting equal opportunities as other teams by having outdated (insert excuse blah blah blah) ..

    Now they have the right to take a
    Vote to the city to approve such additions or new facilities or whatever . Now the balls in their court despite any laws or agreements . Bc they like the OKC group did they can propose OUTLANDISH arenas or remodels or whatever the hell they want which will surely not be approved bc their completely impractical .

    Now upon failed votes they can petition to relocate bc the “market ” is at a disadvantage . Now all they need to do is lawyer up and go on a city smear plan . That may include not being competitive or getting rid of popular players for picks .

    Once they have arrived here all they need to do is buddy up with the commish and complain about money and they will propose a vote to relocate. If voted yes which most owners will agree bc it them strangles their leverage later in arena or other revenue deals. Now they
    Have permission to move and have to settle with the city .

    In The sonics case their was huge backlash and since seattle has a lot of money their were multiple ownership groups willing to buy them and keep them in town and work on the (whatever made up discrepancies or excuses the new ownership proposed ) . The sale will not happen bc the new ownership groups entire plan is to move the team Regardless of what they say so of course they won’t agree .

    Now between the city and the new ownership group they must agree to terms . The city& arena can force the team to stay but the ownership group is prepared for this so they negotiate terms with both .bloating up a severance fee to astronomical amounts that seem
    Good for the city and all parties .

    Of course their will be some tricky business wording they will promise an opportunity for a new team and how the current ownership group will help pay for any new arising issues that a new NFL team might encounter to help alleviate the burden of starting a new team .

    Long story short the team will be gone and no team will be back in time to even
    Collect the entire amount of the severance fee they agreed on bc of tricky wording .

    Look up SONICGATE . If you as fans don’t complain and raise hell literally your team will be gone PERIOD. What happened to
    Seattle was one of the most shady discrete business transactions in sports History but it can happen to you unless your pressure your politician to not accept moving like Sacramento’s mayor did this last Time . Bc if your persistent enough your team
    Can stay but if you aren’t obnoxiously loud against moving they will move and although the city supported them it will look like you didn’t and that your deserve them to be taken away. Business is shady a lot of times these buying stipulations are only speed bumps not barricades.

  18. skinnaird78251 says: Apr 29, 2014 12:45 PM

    Gonna have to pardon me on this, I’ve been a Bills fan for my entire 42 years of existence. I’m loyal. The City of Buffalo is loyal. Every fall, every fan is filled with new found hope. Let’s please remember that Mrs. Wilson knows all of this. She WILL NOT sell to anyone who has even a thought of moving the Bills. Lease or no Lease, Bills will stay. Ralph was loyal till his last breath, and with reading the lease, his continues to be loyal. We gotta have faith people. Jim Kelly will find a way to win this just like he did in the 4th quarter his entire career. Go Bills!

  19. mazblast says: Apr 29, 2014 1:05 PM

    The team will wind up moving because The Great Roger Goodell Himself Live And In Person, Celebrity Commissioner (TM), a western New York native, hates any reminder that He Himself has a background that doesn’t exude Coolness, Hipness, and the right Cosmopolitan Attitude. The Great One wants not only titles to go only to Cool Cities, but franchises themselves.

    In other words, the Commissioner will continue his policy of flipping the bird to the real fans who like real football. He (?) wants video games for his fellow attention-span-deficit Cool Kids.

  20. juliusanonymous says: Apr 29, 2014 1:18 PM

    Good for Buffalo. That town deserves a championship after supporting that team for so long. Especially after getting so close. I’ve been to a game in Buffalo and was impressed by the hospitality, passion and loyalty of Bills fans.

    This could be a good thing for Buffalo. Ken Behring bought the Seahawks and tried to move them to LA and that’s what brought us our new owner Paul Allen, a deeply-beloved local hero who finally brought us a Lombardi.

    I want to see that happen for Buffalo. Let’s be honest, it’d be awesome if Trump finds a way to finally close the deal and bring a championship to Buffalo.

    #KeepTheBillsInBuffalo
    #WinOneForRalph

  21. allidoiswin55 says: Apr 29, 2014 1:29 PM

    The new ownership only has to agree to not move them . Once they buy the team they can use tactics to discredit the city and therefore not be “forced ” to stay . This can and will happen if ownership group buys them whose from another city like Toronto or La . You all sound exactly like we did in Seattle and before your know it stuffs flipped upside down and your losing your team. Despite history or fan support or the wide of the owner knowing better . Business is shady they will move them regardless of some Monetary Stipulations . Only way they don’t move is if the fans raise hell like they are moving .

    You assuming they won’t simply look at sonic gate in YouTube . I’m telling you this situation sounds eerily similar . Contacts are made to be broken and promises are not reliable in business unless your personal friends . If you sit back and let it play out and aren’t obnoxious about them staying they will leave .

    Rally’s are not enough you have to damn near blackmail your local politician to do everything in his power including smear campaigns against the new ownership and perspective city . Has to be this way trust someone who has to watch his nba championship team play in OKC with a cpl future hall of famers who were drafted in Seattle ! It sucks major balls !

  22. djshnooks says: Apr 29, 2014 2:14 PM

    Once again, I’ll say…GOING NOWHERE!

    Keep hoping we get screwed, but it won’t be happening…there’s too many people with local ties who have lots of money.

    I know, I know…Buffalo and Upstate NY is the armpit of New York State…right?

    Some people need to get educated. I dare you to visit the Finger Lakes or Ithaca or the Adirondacks…see if you wanna leave.

    But again, the Bills are going nowhere! ;-)

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