BUFFALO – The folks in Milwaukee know all about Steve Greenberg.
Greenberg, the investment banker reportedly hired by Sabres owner Terry Pegula to explore a purchase of the Buffalo Bills, helped former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl sell the Milwaukee Bucks this spring for a staggering $550 million. That price tag, considered unprecedented for a small-market franchise in the National Basketball Association, again served as a reminder of Greenberg's behind-the-scenes influence in professional sports.
Pegula and his wife, of course, haven't even admitted publicly that they're interested in buying the Bills. But according to Don Walker, a reporter who covered the sale of the Bucks for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, nobody hires a man like Greenberg without having some sort of interest.
"He's certainly hired one of the best-known sports investors there is in the country," Walker said by phone on Wednesday. "That would go a long way toward possible success in Mr. Pegula's ability to buy the Buffalo Bills."
Walker has interacted with Greenberg on several occasions, dating back more than a decade, but he's never personally met him. In fact, Greenberg famously tends to broker his deals in secret, making him all but anonymous to the general public. His New York City-based Allen and Company doesn't even appear to have a listed website.
Perhaps that's what makes Greenberg so successful. He has assisted in the sale of almost a dozen professional sports franchises, including the New York Mets, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards.
Normally, Greenberg and his company deal from the seller's perspective, just as they helped the Milwaukee Bucks this year.
"That's usually their expertise," Walker said. "It's unusual to hear that Steve Greenberg or his company might be representing an individual bidder interested in the Buffalo Bills."
Greenberg's influence even extends into the sports media. He was considered instrumental in the creation of the MLB Network, the Big Ten Network and "Classic Sports," which is now ESPN Classic.
Adding to the mystique, Greenberg is also the former deputy commissioner of Major League Baseball. His father was Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Greenberg.
"He's so well-connected," Walker said.
Greenberg's secretary said Wednesday that he likely would decline all interview requests with reporters, adding that he's away on vacation at the moment. According to Walker, Greenberg does not often deal with the media, which likely aids his ability to broker deals.
Despite his secretive nature, Greenberg's colleagues consider him a friendly, honest and up-front investor. Reached by phone Wednesday, a Milwaukee-based lawyer who's dealt extensively with Greenberg in the past said he's highly respected and well-liked by his peers.
And, apparently by Terry Pegula, too.