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Report: Bills could identify new owner by July

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

The plan is to keep the Bills in Buffalo. (USATSI)
The plan is to keep the Bills in Buffalo. (USATSI)

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When Bills owner Ralph Wilson died in March, questions were immediately raised about whether the team would remain in Buffalo long term or relocate elsewhere. Now a source tells the Associated Press that the Bills could identify a new owner by July, and have the deal approved by the league's owners in October. The source also said that one prospective ownership group has already toured possible new stadium locations in the Buffalo area.

Wilson's estate is in the process of hiring an investment bank to sell the team, which will likely go to the highest bidder. The possibility that this could happen by July would accelerate Gov. Andrew Cuomo's efforts to make sure the Bills remain in western New York.

The AP reports: "The state intends to hire a consulting firm over the next week to produce a report within three months that would be issued to prospective owners. The report would identify potential stadium sites and outline public financing options that would be made available."

A committee comprised of public and private leaders -- including some Bills executives -- is expected to make recommendations on whether a new stadium should be built, or if the existing Ralph Wilson Stadium can remain viable until its lease expires in 2023. But those recommendations could take at least six months, well after a new owner had been identified.

Cuomo hopes to have the framework for such a plan in place much sooner.

"The governor wants to be prepared if there are any earlier offers to buy the team," Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy told the AP on Friday. "Our team is looking at sites now in Erie County, Buffalo, Niagara County. We're just being prepared because we don't know who the next owner will be. We're not sure what the goals and the objectives of the next ownership team will be."

At the league meetings in late March, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote, "There are no shortage of qualified candidates who are ready and eager to buy into the NFL, with the leagues finances booming and its broadcast and labor situation secure through the rest of this decade. For every name you hear, there are several more lurking."

Those names include musician Jon Bon Jovi and Hall of Famer, former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and, according to the Buffalo News, billionaire B. Thomas Golisano, former owner of the Buffalo Sabres.

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