The $ 850 million taxpayer-funded deal to build a $ 1.4 billion stadium for the Buffalo Bills is not only a touchdown for quarterback upstate fans starring Josh Allen – it’s also a big win for Governor Kathy Hochul’s husband’s firm.
Bill Hochul is the senior vice president and attorney general of Delaware North, the most important food concessionaire at the current Highmark Stadium of the Buffalo Bills.
Delaware North and its employees could potentially benefit from an additional 30 years of work on the new stadium, provided the Buffalo-based company retains the concession.
“Delaware North has operated concessions, upscale restaurants and retail services at Highmark Stadium since 1992. The 71,870-seat venue is home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills,” reads a summary on the company’s website.
Delaware North’s culinary team creates locally and regionally inspired dishes for the stadium’s 66 concessions. Exclusive dining includes 123 suites and seven clubs offering on-site service.
“Delaware North operates 19 retail stores, including a year-round team store and 18 permanent and portable stands,” the company says.
Albany insiders pointed out Tuesday how Bill Hochul’s business took advantage of the stadium deal at a time when Governor Hochul was facing criticism that the state’s $ 600 million taxpayer subsidy for Bills’ new stadium area smelled of corporate well-being. Erie County is pumping in an additional $ 250 million to pay for the new stadium, with bills picking up the remaining $ 1.4 billion in costs.
The Post first reported on the massive tax cuts planned for Bills’ new stadium on March 11th.
“One of the biggest winners from this bad stadium deal is Delaware North. Delaware North will make a lot more money on new food and beverage operations at the new stadium,” said John Kaehny, executive director of the government’s watchdog group Reinvent Albany.
Kaehny asked how Hochul avoided a dispute by approving Bills’ stadium deal, “when her husband’s company, Delaware North, is one of the big winners.”
“It’s such a bad deal for taxpayers that it’s inconceivable,” he said.
A veteran lobbyist from Albany also questioned the governor’s role in promoting Bills’ generous stadium deal given Delaware North’s contacts with the football team.
“She should definitely have resigned – her spouse has a financial interest,” the source said.
“Worse still, the whole deal was negotiated behind closed doors – with NFL owners far more informed than any legislator.”
Hochul signed a note of ethical rejection on August 23, promising to avoid direct interaction with Delaware North, her husband’s firm.
“As governor, you will not use your position to advance the interests of Delaware North,” the memo drafted by Chief Ethics Officer David Perino read.
Hochul issued a press release Tuesday in which she insisted she has kept a promise to resign from any relationship with her husband’s company.
“Governor Hochul has released the full withdrawal agreement, which she abides by to avoid conflicts of interest,” the statement said.
“In the agreement, Governor Hochul agrees to waive all matters relating to Delaware North and does not agree to use its position to advance the interests of this company,” the statement read.
Delaware North said Bill Hochul and the company had no role in Bills’ stadium negotiations with Hochul, state or local authorities or the team.
“Bill Hochul was not involved in the negotiations for Bill’s Stadium – neither was Delaware North. We have proudly acted as the concession provider for Highmark Stadium since 1992,” said Delaware North spokesman Glen White.
A spokesman for the Buffalo Bills said the franchise with Delaware North expires at the end of the 2022 season and that the team will put the contract out to tender next year.
Meanwhile, one of Hochul’s biggest democratic opponents, the Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, also the connection between Hochul and Delaware North.
“It’s the biggest giveaway in NFL history (for 8 home games a year), and Hochul’s husband represents Delaware North, who has the franchise contract at the current stadium. We can build a stadium, but get the billionaire to pay, not the fans and taxpayers! said Suozzi.