Buffalo Bills Owner Ralph Wilson Dies at 95

03.26.14 | Bob Price

Ralph Wilson Jr., the only owner the Buffalo Bills have ever had, has died at age 95.

Bills President Russ Brandon  made the announcement at the league's winter meetings in Orlando on Tuesday.

"No one loves this game more than Ralph Wilson," Brandon said in a statement. "It's very tough. What he's meant to the entire organization. He's our leader, our mentor our friend. How he loves his players and loved our community. Special guy. They just don't make them like Ralph Wilson."

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." she said

Wilson had been in failing health for several years after having hip surgery in 2011. Though he spent much of his time at his home suburban Detroit, he was well enough to attend the Hall of Fame induction weekends over the past few years.

Wilson was the founder and sole owner of the Bills after establishing the team with the upstart American Football League in 1960. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

The death of the football hall of famer, businessman and philanthropist is being mourned by the team and the entire league, as well a large segment of the Buffalo business and philanthropic community.

His death also raises a question that Wilson himself often addressed in life, about the team's ability to stay in Buffalo long term, now that he is gone.

In his lifetime, Wilson took a team founded on $25,000 in 1960 and he turned it into a team that according to Forbes magazine turned a profit of $35 million in 2008.  

But many experts have suggested that new ownership would require large loans, with interest payments that could wipe out most any current profit estimates, based on available revenues in Buffalo.

Wilson first purchased a minority share in the National Football League's Detroit Lions before joining a group of other team owners - then called "The Foolish Club"- with teams in the American Football League . He was the only original AFL owner who kept his team in the city where it was founded.