Thanks to LAObserved for pointing to this summary of Connie Bruck's big profile of Philip Anschutz and AEG, in the current issue of The New Yorker. The title says it all: "The Man Who Owns L.A." And for the man who owns LA, it's all about getting an NFL team to betray its current fans and commit to the Southland:
Anschutz, who lives in Denver, is intensely private and does little to publicize his ownership of A.E.G. or any of his other business activities. [AEG President Tim] Leiweke wants to create what he calls “the final piece of the puzzle for L.A. Live”: an N.F.L. stadium, to be built adjacent to Staples Center. With a deployable roof, the stadium is intended to house—in addition to football games and Super Bowls—concerts, international soccer games, wrestling and boxing matches, N.C.A.A. Final Fours, and major religious gatherings. Los Angeles has not had an N.F.L. team since 1995, when the Rams and the Raiders, tired of playing in antiquated stadiums, left the city. Leiweke began his campaign last February, with a lavish public event to announce a deal he had made with the Farmers Insurance Company: in exchange for a reported seven hundred million dollars over thirty years, the planned stadium would be named Farmers Field. It was the largest naming-rights deal in sports. The next step will be the most challenging. Anschutz has pledged to spend more than a billion dollars to build the stadium, but he and Leiweke must reach a deal both with the N.F.L. and with one or two teams to move to L.A.
As KPCC's Tony Pierce reported today, that team won't be the San Diego Chargers — an unsurprising outcome, given that Tim Leiweke was going up against Mark Fabiani, the Chargers' lawyer who most definitely did not want San Diego to lose the team.
[W]hile AEG’s Tim Leiweke is making plenty of noise about how rapidly the Downtown stadium could be putting local plutocrats in luxury boxes to enjoy L.A. Chargers football, the still-San Diego Chargers’ semi-legendary special counsel, Mark Fabiani, is doing his best to smash that agenda into many tiny pieces. Then grind it into dust. Then scatter it to the four winds.
Game over on that front. Other talked-about teams have also dropped out of the running. The Vikings will stay in Minnesota. ESPN.com has been assessing the odds on teams that might move to LA, and with the Chargers and Vikings out, we're down to the Raiders and the Rams.
This if course means that if LA gets a team, it will be getting back a team that played here before.
The Raiders are looking at sharing a new stadium in the Bay Area with the 49ers, which might induce them to move to LA. Meanwhile, the Rams' lease on their stadium in St. Louis is expiring. They can play the time-honored "give us a new stadium or we're going to LA" card — this one last time. In this context, it seems most likely that we'll be getting the Raiders.
That said, push is coming to shove for AEG's stadium strategy. Which, it should be pointed out, involves LA getting a renovated, revamped convention center. Mark Lacter at LA Biz Observed doesn't like the idea, arguing that the convention business is declining and that it's no good to argue that city's with the best facilities will get a larger slice of the shrinking pie.
OK, fine. But LA's convention facilities are so bad that the city is at a disadvantage for winning even the convention business it should be getting. Lacter rightly calls LA "second-tier," but when you look at the competition — chilly Boston and Baltimore, for example — you can see why greenlight a football stadium to get a convention-center update in the bargain makes sense. If LA is going to waste money on conventions, it should at least be first tier.