Something smells fishy at One Bills Drive and it’s not because Tyler Bass and Brandon Shell are on the roster.
No, this is an administrative odor and it was emitted last Wednesday when Ron Raccuia, the team’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, was ousted.
In addition to making that announcement, team owner Terry Pegula revealed that he would take over as team president from his wife Kim, still dealing with communication issues as a result of suffering cardiac arrest a year ago June.
He also disclosed two promotions and one hire atop the business, finance and stadium relations departments.
THE ABRUPT dismissal of Raccuia was stunning, if only for the timing, a week before training camp opened.
And it’s not as if the Bills’ sixth-year executive found a new-and-better job.
Clearly this was punitive on Pegula’s part and he hinted as much in his press release, citing a need for revamped and improved structure in the business and finance area.
Clearly, Terry had to be bothered enough to remove the man who had become the face of the off-the-field side of the team following Kim’s heart issues. He had been called her confidant and adviser as he steered negotiations for construction of the new stadium in her absence.
Now that he’s gone, the team’s general counsel, Kathryn D’Angelo, has been elevated to senior vice president of business administration and vice president of finance John Dziurlikowski is now senior vice president of finance and business while Pitt’s former senior associate athletic director, Penny Semala, will be vice president of stadium relations.
SO WHAT happened with Raccuia?
His post-firing comments were total boiler-plate compliments for the organization and Pegula’s merely hinted at revamping and improving the business structure.
There are, however, rumors.
One involves stadium cost overruns.
New York State is contributing $600 million to the $1.54 billion original cost estimate with Erie County adding $250 million. The rest had to be generated by the Pegulas. Significantly, they were responsible for any cost overruns. There are whispers that even though the new stadium is only in the excavation stage, potential extra costs are supposedly in the hundreds of millions … distressing news for Pegula.
If that’s true, did Terry blame Raccuia for lack of oversight?
Others speculate that at issue is Legends, the consulting company formed by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and enlisted by the Bills.
Legends has been involved in stadium construction, taken over food and beverage rights from Buffalo-based Delaware North, a popular regional firm, is responsible for handling personal seat licenses and ticket fees and acquiring sponsorships for the new facility.
Supposedly, those familiar with the latter two feel that the sponsorship fees are exorbitant for the NFL’s second-smallest market and the seat license stipends and increased ticket costs will price middle income Bills fans out of the market.
Is Raccuia being blamed for not standing up to Legends’ lack of awareness of Western New York’s financial reality?
The day he was let go, Legends, which already operates the Bills store, bought the ADPRO company, a seller of branded and licensed merchandise and apparel, and for which the team’s practice facility is named.
Raccuia founded it and, in 2017, sold it to Kim Pegula, and her three children by Terry, though he remained president and retained a minority ownership.
Wednesday’s sale to Legends ended his presidency and stock in the company.
What’s certain is this; details of the end to Raccuia’s career are bound to emerge, but as for now, there’s no lack of speculation.
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)