Donald Trump & Michael Caputo form a shell company to buy the Buffalo Bills

The Trump Timeline

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Sometime in the spring, Donald Trump hires Michael Caputo to head his campaign to buy the Buffalo Bills, masked by a shell company that Caputo creates. The company is named 12 Man Thunder and later renamed Bills Fan Thunder.

Trump and Caputo pay off an amputee to pretend to be the organization’s leader in hopes to earn sympathy points. Caputo later goes rogue and launches his own smear campaigns against the other bidders. 

Having been publicly involved with abortive efforts to launch Trump into New York’s gubernatorial race the year before, Caputo was too closely associated with the mogul to be the public face of the 2014 effort, so he recruited others. “I had it all set up with neighborhood guys who lived by the stadium,” he explained.

“We weren’t even allowed to mention [Trump’s] name because of the agreement that he signed.”

In a stroke of cunning, Caputo recruited Chuck Sonntag, a double amputee cancer survivor, to serve as the group’s leader. Press coverage would occasionally identify Caputo as a “PR consultant” to the group, while reporting that it was founded by Sonntag as he lay recovering from his amputations in a rehabilitation center. “It was easier for Sonntag to lose his leg than his team,” Caputo recalled…

Trump’s involvement in the Buffalo scheme was short-lived. According to Caputo, not long after 12th Man Thunder was formed, Trump entered a $1 billion bid for the Bills, and as a condition of that offer, was forbidden from participating in public outreach efforts related to the sale. So, as Caputo recalls, Trump called him and told him that he had to break off contact with him and the fan group. “I can’t talk to you anymore because of the NDA I signed,” Caputo remembers Trump saying. “Have a good time.”


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Photograph: Yana Paskova for The New York Times

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