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Kim Pegula: From Orphan to Influential Sports Executive
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10 days ago
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Kim Pegula, the Korean-born American co-owner of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, has faced significant health challenges after suffering a cardiac arrest in 2022 that left her incapacitated with brain damage and memory issues.

Early Life and Adoption

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Kim Pegula's rise to prominence and success is a remarkable story that has inspired many, particularly within the Asian American community. As she became more successful, and her daughter Jessica Pegula achieved success in professional tennis, they realized the cultural impact and support they garnered from Asian Americans and Asians globally. Jessica Pegula acknowledged this, stating, "As she became more successful, and I became more successful in the tennis world, we started to realize how much that meant to Asian Americans or Asians in general and how they really got behind us." She further added, "It really supported us, and that's something that I think, especially in tennis, I think you get more support here in another country because there are so many sports here in America." Kim Pegula's journey from an orphan in South Korea to a billionaire co-owner of major sports franchises has resonated deeply with the Asian diaspora, serving as an inspiration and a symbol of resilience and achievement.
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Meeting Terry Pegula and Career Beginnings

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Kim Pegula's career trajectory was significantly influenced by her chance encounter with Terry Pegula in 1991. While interviewing for a waitressing job at a restaurant in Belfast, New York, Kim struck up a conversation with Terry, who was dining there with his employees from East Resources. Impressed by her, Terry offered Kim a job at his natural gas company, which she accepted. This marked the beginning of their professional and personal relationship, leading to their marriage in 1993. Kim worked at East Resources alongside Terry until the company's sale in 2010. This paved the way for the Pegulas to venture into sports ownership, acquiring the Buffalo Sabres and its affiliated teams shortly after, followed by the purchase of the Buffalo Bills in 2014 for a record $1.4 billion all-cash bid. Kim served as the president and CEO of the holding company Pegula Sports and Entertainment, overseeing the management of these teams and other entertainment assets until its dissolution in 2023.
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Rise in the Sports Industry

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After purchasing the Buffalo Sabres in 2011, the Pegulas acquired the Buffalo Bills in 2014 for a record $1.4 billion all-cash bid, making Kim Pegula a prominent figure in the sports industry. She became the first female president of both an NFL and NHL team, overseeing the day-to-day business operations of the Bills and Sabres. Kim played a pivotal role in the creation of Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE) in 2014, a management company that oversaw the business operations across all Pegula-owned entities, including sports teams, entertainment assets, and the development of LECOM Harborcenter in downtown Buffalo. Under her leadership, PSE helped bring new business opportunities to Buffalo, such as hosting the NHL Combine, the 2016 NHL Draft, the 2018 World Junior Championships, and the 2019 Frozen Four NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament.
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Kim's Health Crisis Aftermath

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In June 2022, Kim Pegula suffered a severe cardiac arrest that left her with debilitating health issues, including expressive aphasia and significant memory problems. After a lengthy rehabilitation process, Terry Pegula filed a petition in February 2023 to have Kim ruled legally incapacitated. On March 23, 2023, a judge granted Terry the title of "plenary guardian of the person and property" of his wife, with many of Kim's assets transferred to a trust managed by Terry and his longtime business collaborator, Bob Long. To comply with NFL succession planning policies, Terry transferred a small percentage of the Buffalo Bills to his daughter Laura from his previous marriage shortly after she became his ward. A longtime Pegula family associate confirmed that "Kim is not coming back" to the Bills or Sabres front office due to the severity of her condition. Laura has taken on a more prominent role, representing the Bills at league events and sitting in on executive meetings with team employees.
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Surprise Practice Field Appearance

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Kim Pegula, the co-owner and president of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, made her first public appearance in over a year when she attended the Bills' training camp practice at St. John Fisher University on July 30, 2023. The 53-year-old was seen riding in an SUV at the end of the practice field, marking a significant milestone in her recovery from the cardiac arrest she suffered in June 2022. As the first female president of both an NFL and NHL team, Pegula's presence at the Bills' practice was a reminder of her influential role as a team owner and executive. Her attendance, albeit brief, signaled her ongoing commitment to the franchises she co-owns with her husband, Terry Pegula, despite the health challenges she has faced.
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Closing Thouhgts

Kim Pegula's journey from an orphaned child in South Korea to a pioneering female sports executive in the United States is truly remarkable. Despite facing significant health challenges, her impact on the sports industry and the revitalization of Buffalo, New York, remains profound. One of the most poignant moments in Kim's recent journey was her surprise appearance at the Buffalo Bills' training camp practice in Pittsford, Rochester, in July 2023. After suffering a debilitating cardiac arrest the previous year, Kim watched the practice from the front seat of the family's SUV, marking her first public appearance in 14 months. This small but significant step was a testament to her desire to be involved with the teams she co-owns, even as she continues her recovery. While Kim's active role in the day-to-day operations of the Bills and Sabres has been curtailed due to her health condition, her legacy as a trailblazer and influential figure in the sports world endures. Her daughter Laura's increased involvement, representing the Bills at league meetings and receiving a small equity stake to ensure compliance with NFL succession planning policies, ensures the family's continued ownership and commitment to the franchises. Kim Pegula's remarkable journey serves as an inspiration, reminding us of the power of resilience, determination, and the pursuit of one's dreams, no matter the obstacles faced. Her contributions to the sports industry and the city of Buffalo have left an indelible mark, and her story will continue to resonate with fans, aspiring entrepreneurs, and the Asian American community for generations to come.
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