Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 25, 2014

Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson dead at 95 (Updated 4:05 p.m.)

Longtime Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has died, the team announced on Tuesday.

Wilson, 95, had owned the team since its inception 54 years ago. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Wilson died at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., around 1:40 p.m., said Mary Mazur, spokeswoman for the Wayne County medical examiner's office.

He had been receiving in-home hospice care.

Wilson had been in failing health for several years.

His death leaves the future of the Buffalo Bills unclear. Wilson had ruled out the possibility of his family taking over the team after his death. The Bills will instead be sold, though that sale would likely be put off for a few years, with the franchise being operated through a trust.

Wilson, who lived in suburban Detroit, had already scaled back his control of the team. On Jan. 1, Russ Brandon was promoted to the position of team president, giving him full control of the franchise's day-to-day operations.

The team's short-term future in Buffalo was also secured in December, when the Bills signed a 10-year lease with the state and Erie County to continue playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The $271 million deal includes a provision that essentially locks the Bills in for the next seven seasons. The franchise would have to pay $400 million if it decides to leave before 2020. The team then has the option of buying out the remaining three years of the lease for $28 million.

Several groups have expressed interest in purchasing the Bills.

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