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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
AEG prez sees NFL in L.A. soon

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The front man for one of two Los Angeles-area groups trying to bring the NFL back to the nation's second-largest market believes the city will soon get a team.

First, the league must resolve the labor issue with the players and their union. AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said his company has "huge admiration" for the NFL and will wait for a new collective bargaining agreement before focusing on the relocation of an existing franchise.

Leiweke told The Associated Press in a phone interview that his group is focused on a number of initiatives, including a naming rights deal for the proposed downtown stadium. He said AEG will "worry about the team at the appropriate time."

The NFL hasn't had a team in Los Angeles since the Raiders and Rams left in 1995. Both AEG and Majestic Realty Co. want to build primarily privately financed stadiums and eventually entice a team to move there. Majestic has the necessary approvals to build in a suburb 15 miles from downtown.

For now, though, these are just plans.

"Nothing is going to happen on either of those projects without a team," Leiweke said.

Leiweke has relationships with several owners around the NFL -- his brother also used to be president of the Seattle Seahawks -- and boasted of a "good reputation" that AEG has with the league.

Leiweke declined to speculate about whether he believes the NFL will revive the G3 stadium financing program, which expired when the New York teams used it up to help fund their new stadium. But he said he's confident AEG's plan can come to fruition.

"We wouldn't be sitting here talking about a billion-dollar project if we didn't think the NFL worked in L.A.," Leiweke said.

The Minnesota Vikings are one of a handful of teams around the league with unsettled stadium situations, but Leiweke said his conversations with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf have not focused on selling or moving the team.

"Zygi made it real clear he'd like to solve his problems there and get a stadium built," Leiweke said. "We do business there, and we're going to be very careful not to do anything to harm the process. So from a personal standpoint, I hope they figure it out."

Commissioner Roger Goodell, during a visit to Minnesota last month, said he "certainly" hopes the Vikings don't move.

"Our focus is entirely on making sure they're successful here in this market," Goodell said then.