How Kim Pegula went from an orphan abandoned on a Korean street to one of the most powerful women in sports

Kim Pegula may be the most powerful woman in sports.

The 48-year-old owns the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, and several other properties under the Pegula Sports and Entertainment umbrella with her husband, Terry.

Pegula’s rise is a true rags-to-riches tale. Pegula was born to South Korean parents who abandoned her as a toddler on a Korean street. At the age of five, she was adopted by a Canadian family that moved to New York state, where she grew up.

A chance encounter with Terry allowed the two to work together and blossom into a powerful family that has revitalized Buffalo, New York, with the hopes of growing more. In May, she became the first female president in the NFL and NHL by taking over the role for Bills and Sabres.

Here’s the story of her rise.

Kim Pegula was found on a street corner in front of a police station in Seoul, South Korea, when she was a toddler. Not much is known about her birth parents.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty ImagesSeoul, South Korea

According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Sal Maiorana, during that time in South Korea, parents who couldn’t care for their children used to leave them in front of police stations, knowing they would be taken in and cared for until they found a new home.

When Pegula was five, she was adopted by the Kerr family, who were Canadian-born, but moved to Fairport, New York.

Pegula attended kindergarten just one month after being adopted, and learned English quickly. In high school, she was a cheerleader and played in the school band.

Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Pegula attended Houghton College with plans to get into broadcast journalism. However, upon making plans with a friend to make a postgrad trip to Alaska, she made a chance encounter with her future husband, Terry.

Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Kim and her friend were looking to make enough money to fund their trip to Alaska, so they applied to a local restaurant in Olean, New York. While applying Kim met Terry, who was having lunch with several employees from his company, East Resources.

The two began talking and Terry gave Kim his business card and told her to call him.

Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Kim and Terry went on several dates before Terry offered her a job at East Resources in communications. After about a year they got married.

Terry, who is 18 years older than Kim, had two children from a previous marriage. Together they had three kids of their own.

Kim spent most of her time solely as a mother, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, but as her kids grew older, she got back involved in business with Terry.

In 2011, Terry sold East Resources for a reported $US4.7 billion and turned around and bought the company that owned the Buffalo Sabres.

Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

While Terry oversaw the hockey side of operations, Kim got involved in marketing, PR, media, and more, helping boost the fan experience at Sabres games and displaying a natural knack for business.

In 2014, the Pegulas bought the Buffalo Bills for $US1.4 billion. Terry reportedly told Kim prior to the purchase that he couldn’t manage it unless she was fully on board.

The Pegulas beat out fellow bidders, Jon Bon Jovi and future President-elect Donald Trump.

Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Kim also took the lead on developing the HarborCenter, a $US172 million entertainment complex across from the Sabres’ arena, which features two ice rinks, a sports bar, training facilities, locker rooms, retail space, and an adjoining hotel.

Cliff Benson, a business associate of the Pegulas, had suggested turning the space into something, but said Kim expounded on his idea and took it to a new level.

“She took it and ran with it and she did a phenomenal job,” Benson told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The HarborCenter has been credited with helping a revitalization of downtown Buffalo.

Together, Kim and Terry also began Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which is an umbrella for the Bills, Sabres, the Rochester Americans of the AHL, indoor lacrosse team Buffalo Bandits, and record company Black River Entertainment.

Brett Carlsen/Getty

Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Pegula works with the NFL Foundation, which focuses on youth sports and safety in youth football and is also on the Super Bowl and Special Events Committee. She reportedly plans to get more involved at the league level.

Source: NFL Network

Despite her many holdings, Kim is said to be hands-on. Former Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito said Kim would send him texts checking in on him and seeing how he was doing when he first signed with the Bills.

“I thought that was the coolest thing ever,” Incognito told NFL Network’s Mike Silver.

Pegula joked that she probably bothers the players: “I’m a big texter, so I’m like texting them all the time, and they were probably like, ‘Oh my God – she’s texting me again!'”

People around the NFL speak highly of Kim.

The Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told NFL Network: “She’s so attentive and engaged, and she really soaks things up. When she has a thought or an idea, she has my full attention.”

In May, Pegula took over as president of the Bills and Sabres, becoming the first female team president in both leagues, following the resignation of Russ Brandon over allegations of workplace misconduct. She plans to stay in both roles.

Now, relive the first round of one of the most famous drafts in NFL history…

M. David Leeds/Getty

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? The first-round picks from Tom Brady’s infamous 2000 NFL Draft >

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