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Gary Wiepert, File, Associated Press
FILE - In this April 13, 2013, file photo, Buffalo Sabres' owner Terry Pegula and his wife, Kim Pegula, pose for cameras during groundbreaking ceremonies at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y. The next step in the sale of the Buffalo Bills happens on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, when prospective ownership groups face a deadline to submit their formal bids. Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula are among at least three candidates still in the running to buy the franchise, which is for sale after Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson died in March.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula are closing in on their purchase of the Buffalo Bills.

The bid has been tentatively approved by members of late owner Ralph Wilson's estate, two people familiar with discussions told The Associated Press on Tuesday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sale is being conducted privately.

The next step, the people said, is for the estate to get initial approval from the NFL. That could come by the end of the week and as early as later in the day in a process that could be completed by next month.

The development comes a day after the Pegulas were among at least three prospective ownership groups to submit binding bids to purchase the team.

The other two groups to submit bids were New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump and a Toronto group fronted by rocker Jon Bon Jovi.

The Pegulas have been regarded as front-runners to buy the Bills since first expressing interest in pursuing the franchise in May. They have a net worth of more than $3.5 billion, and have the support of local business leaders and public officials because of their commitment to keep the Bills in western New York.

Once identified as the prospective ownership candidates, the Pegulas would require approval from members of the NFL Finance Committee, which is to meet next week. They would also have to go through an extensive background check by an NFL-contracted security firm.

The final step would be approval from three-quarters of the league's 31 other owners, which could come at league meetings next month. After that, NFL owners are next scheduled to meet in December.

Under NFL ownership rules, the Pegulas are allowed to own both the Bills and the Sabres because they are located in the same market.

The Bills are up for sale after Wilson, a Hall of Famer who founded the franchise, died in March.

The franchise was last valued by Forbes at $935 million. But the sale price is expected to exceed $1 billion because NFL franchises rarely go on the block.

The Cleveland Browns were sold for close to $1.05 billion two years ago. The Miami Dolphins sold for an NFL-record $1.1 billion in 2009, but their deal also included their stadium.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer has been involved with the sale process to ensure the Bills stay in New York. Last week, Schumer expressed support of the Pegulas to at least 10 NFL owners.

During a stop in Buffalo on Monday, Schumer said he had conversations regarding the sale that day with both Terry Pegula and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"We talked about the lay of the land. I'm not going to get into details," Schumer said. "But I believe that (Pegula) is enthusiastic about owning and keeping the Bills in Buffalo for generations."

Under the lease agreement reached in December 2012 with New York State and Erie County, the Bills are essentially bound to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the end of the 2019 season. There is a one-time out clause that would allow the team to break the agreement for just under $28.4 million in 2020.

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