- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - No price was too high for Terry Pegula and wife Kim if it meant keeping the Bills in Buffalo, and preserving late Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson’s legacy.

Having difficulty keeping his emotions in check during an introductory news conference on Friday, Pegula was humbled to succeed Wilson as the Bills owner, and outlined his reasons for spending an NFL-record $1.4 billion to buy the team.

“I want to ask the fans if I overpaid. I know what they’re going to tell me,” Pegula said. “We can all have many things in life. We can buy a house. We can buy a car. If you have enough money, there’s 32 football teams. And there’s only one Buffalo Bills.”

The Pegulas were formally ushered in as owners two days after their bid was approved unanimously by NFL owners. And they’ll get their first chance to watch the Bills play from the owner’s box on Sunday, when Buffalo (3-2) hosts AFC East rival New England (3-2).

“Ralph’s 54 years, how do you follow that act? It’s tough,” Pegula said. “It’s going to be an amazing experience.”

Wilson was the team’s founder and sole owner until he died in March, opening questions of whether the team might be sold and eventually relocated.

Pegula, who also owns the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, shared those same concerns and wanted to guarantee the franchise’s future in western New York.

And yet he acknowledged still being floored by how Bills fans reacted once the Pegulas reached an initial agreement to buy the team early last month.

“I was humbled by all you fans, and the outpouring of emotion that I saw when our name was announced as the winning bid,” Pegula said. “I could not believe the pent-up fear of losing the team that was released by you, the fans.”

The Pegulas beat out several competing bidders, including New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump, and a Toronto-based group led by rocker Jon Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi’s group raised concerns over whether it had an intention to buy the team and eventually relocate it north of the border.

The 63-year-old Pegula grew up in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, graduated from Penn State, and made his fortune selling his Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling rights for $4.7 billion to Royal Dutch Shell in 2010. He’s a long-time Sabres fan and bought the team in February 2011.

Pegula intends to keep Russ Brandon as Bills president. He failed, however, to define how he and his wife will split ownership duties.

Without going into detail, he added there have been preliminary discussions about the possibility of building a new stadium, including a potential downtown site.

Brandon welcomed the Pegulas, and believes Wilson would be pleased with the transition.

“I could envision Ralph with his legendary fist pump, saying, ‘Job well done. It’s been a great ride,’” Brandon said. “Now the ride belongs to Terry and Kim Pegula. It’s time to create their own memories and define the Pegula family legacy for generations to come.”

Pegula first teared up about a minute into his introductory speech, when he stopped in mid-sentence before saying, “I knew this was going to happen.” Pegula then said: “We all just bought the team. Our team. The Buffalo Bills.”

Pegula noted that he grew up rooting for the Detroit Lions. And he said he was well aware that Wilson owned a small share of the team, which he had to relinquish in order to establish the Bills as an American Football League franchise in 1959.

Though he never met Wilson, Pegula did recall watching the Bills in the 1960s. Pegula became an even bigger fan in the 1980s, when he based his natural gas company in Olean, New York, and began regularly attending Bills games.

“Owning a professional team is about winning. And the primary goal of our ownership will be to win the Super Bowl, to bring championships to the city of Buffalo,” Pegula said. “Myself and my family will dedicate ourselves to that.”

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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