With all the talk of LA stadiums and relocation, there is also some concern about the future home of the Buffalo Bills.Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. has controlled the team since its birth in 1959, but he is 92 years old and there is no plan for succession after he’s gone. The team could easily be sold away to an outside investor and taken from the only city it’s ever known.
However, investment banker and lifelong Bills fan Stevens Brady thinks he’s found a solution: Get a loan from the fans.
NFL rules prohibit public ownership of its franchises. However, Brady believes that a new team owner could sell bonds directly to fans. For around $200 per bond, the public would essentially be giving a low-interest loan to their favourite team.
Whoever becomes the new owner of the Bills would have to take on serious debt to finance the estimated $800M asking price, but Brady figures that even if the “Bills Bonds” raise just $100M of the cost, it could still save the owner $4-to-5 million in interest payments every year.
On paper, it sounds brilliant. The owner gets a break on his debt payments, the fans get a financial stake in their team, and the city doesn’t have to spend a dime of taxpayer money to keep the franchise where it is. And unlike the shareholders of the Green Bay Packers (who were grandfathered into the NFL’s ownership rules and can’t sell their stock), Bills Bonds owners would get their money back, with interest.
There is one major obstacle, however. Brady has studied the NFL’s ownership rules and is convinced this plan would pass muster. Unfortunately, there’s nothing preventing the NFL from altering its rules and simply rejecting the idea out of hand.
They shouldn’t though. The bonds would not give fans traditional ownership rights — like picking a board of directors or voting on league rules — but it would tie the franchise more closely to the city and its fans. It allows fans a way to show direct support for struggling franchises, without forcing cities to makes horrible tax concessions or funnel millions of dollars into boondoggle stadium projects.
We’d love to see this idea replace the traditional financial arrangements that cripple municipal budgets or deprive loyal fans of their beloved teams.
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