AEG and the NBA

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
2:31
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
That AEG is for sale has huge potential impact for many different parties.

For Los Angeles, AEG is not only the driving force behind bringing the NFL back, but also the owner of the Staples Center, L.A. Live and plenty more real estate besides. (Philip Anschutz, the billionaire owner of AEG, has been called the most important Angelino, even though he lives in Denver.)

But the sale also has the potential to shift some things around for the NBA, whose teams play in AEG arenas all over the country and globe. Per AEG's website, the Spurs, Timberwolves, Nets, Grizzlies, Warriors, Blazers, Lakers, Clippers, Heat and Bobcats are among the many teams playing in AEG arenas.

In a January New Yorker article about AEG, Connie Bruck explains how the charismatic head of AEG, Tim Leiweke, came to work for the company's current owner and founder, the reclusive Anschutz. The NBA played a role from the start:
Anschutz and Leiweke first met in the early nineties, when Leiweke was president of the Denver Nuggets, and they made a deal on some of Anschutz’s land in Denver for what ultimately became the Pepsi Center. “I think he had fun screwing me out of twenty million dollars in that purchase,” Leiweke said. Anschutz was impressed, though, and in 1996 he asked Leiweke to move to Los Angeles, to take over the Kings and create something akin to the Pepsi Center project. When Anschutz’s multiple entities were rolled into Anschutz Entertainment Group, in 1999, he put Tim Leiweke in charge of the global brand. Today, A.E.G. owns or operates about a hundred venues around the world, including the O2 arenas in London, Berlin, and Hamburg, and controls much of their content.

Anschutz and Leiweke have transformed the sports and entertainment industry. The N.B.A. commissioner, David Stern, who has known both men for more than twenty years, told me, “Their footprint and their areas of expertise don’t seem to have boundaries.” The N.B.A. is a partner with A.E.G. in an arena in Shanghai, and N.B.A. teams play in A.E.G. arenas around the world. “Tim really didn’t become the Tim he is today until he went to work for Phil Anschutz,” Stern continued, noting that Leiweke is “a sort of modern-day P. T. Barnum.” He entered the sports industry during a time of rapid change. “We went from a league playing in beat-up buildings to this model of video boards and sound systems and restaurants and suites and clubs and, oh yes, there’s a basketball game in here somewhere!”

Henry Abbott | email

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