Founded the Buffalo Bills as an original member of the American Football League in 1960 and saw them go to four Super Bowls as the only owner in the team’s history.
In obtaining an A.F.L. franchise for $25,000 in 1960, Mr. Wilson joined seven other founding A.F.L. team owners in a daunting challenge to the long-established N.F.L. They were nicknamed the Foolish Club. He was the last survivor of that club remaining in the N.F.L. Of the original eight, only Barron Hilton, the founder of the Los Angeles Chargers (now the San Diego Chargers), survives.
When Mr. Wilson, a Michigan businessman, applied for an A.F.L. franchise, he wanted to put a team in Miami but could not reach a deal for use of the Orange Bowl. He settled on Buffalo, and revived the name of the team that played there in the All-America Conference of the 1940s.
A small-market franchise, the Bills were valued in August 2013 at $870 million by Forbes magazine, 30th among the N.F.L.’s 32 teams. In December 2012, the team reached a $130 million deal with New York State to renovate the stadium and keep the Bills in Orchard Park for at least seven years.
He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, attended the University of Michigan Law School and served in the Navy during World War II. Mr. Wilson expanded the family business into Ralph C. Wilson Industries with interests in insurance, television stations, highway construction, oil and gas drilling and automotive parts, and he owned a small stake in the Lions before he got his A.F.L. franchise.
His survivors include his wife, Mary, and his daughters Christy and Edith, known as Dee Dee.more » « less