At least three groups, including Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, have entered final negotiations to buy the Buffalo Bills.
Three people close to discussions told The Associated Press on Tuesday that New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump and a Toronto-based group led by rocker Jon Bon Jovi also have received formal documents in advance of a deadline for bids to be submitted by Monday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the sale is being conducted privately.
Two other people familiar with the process say former Sabres owner Tom Golisano is not prepared to submit a bid.
Proskauer Rose, the law firm representing late-Bills owner Ralph Wilson's estate, distributed what are called purchase agreements to each of the groups. The agreements are binding documents that require groups to submit a formal bid as well as establish the terms and conditions of a potential sale.
The team is being sold after Wilson, the Bills founder and Hall of Fame inductee, died in March.
The Pegulas remain the front-runners. They have a net worth of more than $3.5 billion US, and have the support of local business leaders and public officials because of their commitment to keep the Bills in western New York.
The Bon Jovi group remains intact despite several recent reports of it splintering. The group is rounded out by Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and the Rogers family, which controls Rogers Communications.
The biggest obstacle that has consistently faced Bon Jovi and his partners is the question regarding their intentions to possibly relocate the franchise north of the border.
Under the Bills' lease that runs through the 2022 season, the team is essentially locked into playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the 2019 season. There is a one-time exception that would allow them to break the agreement for just under $28.4 million in 2020.
Attorneys representing each of the groups have spent the past week exchanging information with Proskauer Rose in order to complete the 80-page documents.
The bidding process will remain open for groups to increase their bids until a candidate is selected.
Once identified, the prospective owner would have to go through an extensive background check conducted by an NFL-contracted security firm. The candidate would then need two-thirds majority approval from the league's 31 owners.
It's unclear whether the sale and vetting process can be completed in time for league meetings early next month. The approval may have to be pushed back to NFL meetings scheduled for December.