Kathy Hochul’s husband could benefit from Buffalo Bills deal
The $850 million, taxpayer-funded deal to build a $1.4 billion stadium for the Buffalo Bills is not only a touchdown for upstate fans of star quarterback Josh Allen — it’s also a big win for the firm of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s husband.
Bill Hochul is senior vice president and general counsel for Delaware North, the major food concessionaire at the Buffalo Bills’ current Highmark Stadium.
Delaware North and its employees stand to potentially benefit from another 30 years of work at the new stadium, assuming the Buffalo-based firm keeps the concession.
“Delaware North has operated concessions, premium dining and retail services at Highmark Stadium since 1992. The 71,870-seat venue is home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills,” a summary on the firm’s website says.
“Delaware North’s culinary team creates locally and regionally inspired fare for the stadium’s 66 concession outlets. Premium dining includes 123 suites and seven clubs offering in-seat service.
“Delaware North manages 19 retail outlets, including a year-round team store and 18 permanent and portable stands.,” the firm says.
Albany insiders pointed out Tuesday how Bill Hochul’s firm benefits from the stadium deal at a time when Gov. Hochul is facing criticism that the $600 million state taxpayer subsidy for the new Bills’ stadium area smacks of corporate welfare. Erie County kicks in another $250 million to pay for the new stadium, with the Bills’ kicking in the rest of the $1.4 billion costs.
The Post first reported about the massive tax subsidies planned for the new Bills stadium on March 11.
“One of the biggest winners of this bad stadium deal is Delaware North. Delaware North will make far more money from additional new food service and beverage business in the new stadium,” said John Kaehny, executive director of the government watchdog group Reinvent Albany.
Kaehny asked how Hochul avoided a conflict in approving the Bills’ stadium deal “when her husband’s firm, Delaware North, is one of the big winners.”
“This is such a bad deal for the taxpayers it’s mind boggling,” he said.
One veteran Albany lobbyist also questioned the role of the governor pushing the generous Bills’ stadium deal, given Delaware North’s business with the football team.
“She absolutely should have recused herself — her spouse has a direct financial interest,” the source said.
“Worse yet, the whole deal was negotiated behind closed doors — with NFL owners far more informed than any legislators.”
Hochul signed an ethics recusal memo on Aug. 23 vowing to avoid any direct interactions with Delaware North, her husband’s firm.
“As governor you will not use your position to benefit the interests of Delaware North,” said the memo prepared by ethics officer David Perino.
“Governor Hochul is committed to the strictest ethical standards and restoring trust in government. Delaware North is not a party to the negotiations and any future decisions about vendors at the new stadium would be made by the Bills alone,” said Hochul spokeswoman Hazel
Hochul’s office also said the governor has a duty to advocate and promote the best interests of the state. She oversees the state’s finances and her responsibility as New York’s chief advocate is “non-delegable.”
Delaware North is not party to the negotiations with the Bills and the interests of Delaware North are “speculative and indirect”, the governor’s office.
In addition, Bill Hochul is recused from all New York State business activities, the governor’s office said.
Delaware North said Bill Hochul and the firm had no role in the Bills’ stadium negotiations with Hochul, state or local officials or the team.
“Bill Hochul was not involved in the Bills’ stadium negotiations — nor was Delaware North. We have been proud to serve as the concessions provider for Highmark Stadium since 1992,” said Delaware North spokesman Glen White.
A spokesman for the Buffalo Bills said the concession with Delaware North expires at the end of the 2022 season and the team will put the contract out for competitive bid next year.
Meanwhile, one of Hochul’s Democratic primary opponents, Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, also slammed the Hochul-Delaware North connection.
“It’s the biggest giveaway in NFL history (for 8 home games per year) and Hochul’s husband just happens to represent Delaware North, which has the concessions contract in the current stadium. We can build a stadium, but let’s have the billionaire pay, not the fans and taxpayers!,” Suozzi said.