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The Buffalo News (New York)
The NFL's regular season doesn't begin until September.
But the bidding process to buy the Buffalo Bills kicks off today.
Prospective buyers have until 5 p.m. to notify financial firm Morgan Stanley they intend to remain in pursuit.
The notice of intent will include a nonbinding initial bid, an explanation of how the Bills would be paid for and other documents. Morgan Stanley, hired by the Bills' trustees to handle the sale, then will whittle down the group to a more manageable number if necessary.
Expected to submit notifications are Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula; the Toronto-based group with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment executive Larry Tanenbaum and rock star Jon Bon Jovi; former Sabres owner Tom Golisano; and billionaire developer Donald Trump.
Other possibilities include bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach of Amherst and Pabst Brewing Company owner C. Dean Metropoulos.
Syracuse-based developer Scott Congel will not submit paperwork today, a knowledgeable source told The Buffalo News on Monday. Congel instead will concentrate on his West Seneca stadium project and could latch onto another group later.
Veteran brokers who have handled NFL team sales and purchases are quick to mention that bidders whose names haven't been reported yet could surface.
But nobody can bid without having first signed Morgan Stanley's nondisclosure agreement to keep Bills' financial information and the sales process confidential.
A league source with knowledge of the sale informed The Buffalo News at least 15 non-disclosure agreements have been submitted. That number is considered low.
A second source called Morgan Stanley's nondisclosure agreement "wickedly restrictive" because it prevents communication between individuals and groups that under different circumstances might work together to buy the Bills.
But industry analysts observing the race - while choosing to remain anonymous because of their business associations to those involved, - predict the Bills' final sale price won't suffer.
Guessing what the Bills will fetch is virtually impossible at the moment. The Miami Dolphins sold for a league-record $1.1 billion in 2009, and the Bills could go for more.
Sports teams are a precious commodity. Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer is buying the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion, even though the most ever spent on an NBA team was $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks in April.
The Bills' bidding process hasn't heated up yet, but it's about to.
The first round of non-binding bids tends to be low, although there are multiple strategies.
The more common approach is to bid low while remaining in the hunt and then raise the figure based on the number of candidates and their wherewithal. This method allows the bidder to deliver a more accurately competitive number when Morgan Stanley asks for a best and final offer later in the process.
Another strategy is to submit a colossal number, a pre-emptive strike to discourage other candidates from continuing.
The time frame for selling the Bills depends on a few key dates, but most involved claim it's realistic the Bills will have a new owner before the end of the year.
The rest of the NFL owners must approve the sale. While it's considered ambitious for a transaction to be finalized at the fall meeting Oct. 7 and 8 in New York, there's an annual labor meeting in December, too.