I know this might seem like a pipe dream and it truly could be, but what stops the fans from putting together a group to purchase the team upon Mr. Wilson's death?
From what I gather, it is currently against the rules to have fan ownership of the team (a la the Green Bay Packers), but that's a challenge that could be overcome. The Packers were grandfathered into the situation, I don't know why the league would be against this as long as the people who operate the team were dedicated to what the league wants: maximizing profit, putting a good team on the field, etc.
Currently the league requires one owner to own at least 30% of the team (that's about $300M).
I have done next to zero research on this at this point and I am certainly not the first one to come up with the idea, but I am seriously interested in being a part of this type of effort.
Current value of the Bills according to Forbes magazine is $870M. The last share offering of the Packers was at $250 and basically came with nothing. You got a certificate and the Packers were not obligated to repay you the $250 if you wanted to sell. Transfers are severely restricted, but in theory you could privately sell your share(s). They also limited how many shares you could buy at 200/per person.
Using this as a guide, to purchase the Bills for $900M would necessitate the sale of 3.6M shares at $250. The estimate of the "WNY" population is 2.5M so, yeah. I don't think that's realistic, but I'm only using the Packers model as a guide.
Here's what I think might be critical to getting this kind of an effort off the ground:
1. A high-profile leader/spokesperson: I'm thinking like a Jim Kelly or Thurman Thomas to spearhead the effort. They have the credibility to attract people and interest the league.
2. A profitability plan: Share price/return to investors, etc.
I have some business experience, however, please don't misconstrue this message as me saying I'm the guy who has all (or any) of the answers. I am seriously interested however in dedicating my time and what little money I have to this effort.
In short, I have the motivation. I don't have the $900M, the plan in place, or many of the other things that would be critical to an effort like this.
If we get some serious people who are interested and capable of helping out in this endeavor, I'd love to be a part of making it happen. For serious interest in helping in any way you can, please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we get the right skills and enough interest, we'll see if this is a real option.
If there is interest, I will shortly post a few ideas I'd have for how to build this kind of a plan. For now, vote below on what you think of the idea.