Potential AEG sale raises questions

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
9:54
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles Galaxy and a portion of the Los Angeles Lakers, along with Staples Center and the Home Depot Center, is up for sale, the company announced Tuesday.

AEG was also behind Farmers Field, a proposed $1.5 billion football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, which was in the final stages of being cleared for construction subject to the company attracting an NFL team to the city.

So what does the sale of AEG mean for the future of Farmers Field and the return of the NFL to Los Angeles?

And while we're at it, what does it mean for the future of the Kings, the Galaxy, Staples Center and the Home Depot Center?

Well, the only person who can truly answer those questions is the next owner of AEG, and, of course, that person isn't known yet. Who knows whether the next owner of AEG has even thought about being the next owner of AEG? Considering how big and diverse AEG's assets are, the company could be split up and sold to different buyers, although a sale of the whole company to one buyer is AEG's focus, according to a source within the company.

In addition to its sports properties, AEG owns and operates a network of more than 100 arenas, stadiums and clubs in countries on five continents. The company also includes AEG Live, which produces music tours, festivals and special events, including the Coachella Music & Arts Festival, Stagecoach and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. AEG Live owns, operates or exclusively books 35 venues.

Most likely at some point in the near future, AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke will come out and say the day-to-day operations of AEG will not change in the interim and the company remains committed to Farmers Field and bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles.

Of course, that commitment is only as strong as the commitment of AEG's new owner. If that person is just as committed to the project as Leiweke is, it will continue; if he or she isn't, well, it will die as so many NFL stadium proposals in L.A. have over the past two decades.

Don't look for Philip Anschutz, the Denver billionaire who owns AEG, to lend any insight into the matter. He hasn't granted a formal interview request in more than 30 years.

Anschutz, 71, is worth $7 billion and is ranked No. 39 in Forbes’ list of the richest people in America.

A potential buyer of AEG could be Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who is the richest man in Los Angeles, according to Forbes and the Los Angeles Business Journal, with a net worth of more than $7 billion.

The 59-year-old physician, businessman and philanthropist has played a primary role in cutting-edge treatments for a wide variety of cancers. He was a 25-year season-ticket holder for the Los Angeles Lakers before purchasing Magic Johnson's 4.5 percent interest in the team in October 2010. He also made a failed bid to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this year.

When I spoke to Soon-Shiong last year about purchasing a stake in the Lakers and potentially buying the Dodgers, he spoke about his love for the city and sports.

"I'm committed to Los Angeles," Soon-Shiong said then. "I believe this city has so much to offer. ... My commitment is to Los Angeles, so whatever helps this continue to be a great city, that's what I would be focused to do."

When I asked him about his interest in possibly bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles he said, "Yeah, if that were too happen, I'd look into that. I think this city deserves a football team as well."

Another potential buyer or partner could be Eli Broad, a billionaire philanthropist in Los Angeles worth $6.3 billion, according to Forbes. Broad, 78, has been instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles and was behind a failed bid to bring the NFL back to the Los Angeles Coliseum with real estate developer Ed Roski.

Roski, who has been trying to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles since the Raiders and Rams left in 1995, announced plans to build a 75,000-seat stadium in the City of Industry, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles, in 2008. In 2009, the state gave the project a state environmental exemption, which protects it from environmental lawsuits. While the project is currently "shovel ready" and waiting for the NFL, Roski has not been able to secure a team.

How AEG's sale affects the NFL's potential return to Los Angeles is just one of many questions that will go unanswered until a new owner of the company is announced, whenever that is. Until then, the NFL is back to where it has been with Los Angeles for the past 18 years: square one.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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