The "for sale" sign is up at the Buffalo Bills with the hiring of financial and legal advisers who may begin talking with prospective buyers within the next month.
The announcement Wednesday of a transaction team that includes Morgan Stanley financial advisers and Proskauer Rose legal experts came a day after the Bills' chief financial officer, Jeffrey Littmann, updated NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell about the sale process during league meetings in Atlanta.
The Bills, whose long-term future became uncertain with the death of owner Ralph Wilson in March, were last valued by Forbes to be worth $870 million US. The price tag is expected to approach $1 billion because NFL teams don't often come up for sale and numerous prospective owners may become involved in the bidding. The Cleveland Browns sold for about that much when Jimmy Haslam purchased the team in 2012.
A new owner could be selected by Wilson's estate by the end of July and presented for approval at league meetings in October.
Donald Trump and former Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly are among those who've shown interest in owning the Bills.
Another prospective group could include Toronto-based businessmen Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and Edward Rogers, deputy chairman of Rogers Communications.
Other names that have been circulating include Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and former owner B. Thomas Golisano. Amid fears a new owner could eventually relocate the team, Golisano said he would do all he could to ensure the Bills' future in western New York.
The family of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs also has said he would work to keep the Bills in Buffalo without saying whether he would bid for the team.
Bills President Russ Brandon said in a statement that the transaction team would ensure that the sale complies both with NFL rules and the team's obligations to New York State and Erie County under a 10-year lease agreement that essentially locks the Bills into playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the 2019 season.
Goodell this month said a new stadium would be the next step in securing the team's long-term future.
Under the current lease, reached in December 2012, the Bills would incur a $400 million penalty by even broaching the prospect of moving during the lease's term. There is a one-time exception that would allow the Bills to break the agreement for just under $28.4 million in 2020.