Patrick Soon-Shiong — the richest man in L.A., with a net worth north of $7 billion — has been named as a bidder for AEG, the L.A.-based sports/entertainment giant that owns the Lakers, the Staples Center, and L.A. Live, among many other assets and properties worldwide.
AEG would be a pretty big bite — L.A. Live and Staples could fetch $1 billion apiece, and stakes in the sports franchises could add up to half a billion — so Soon-Shiong is reportedly not going it alone. He's joined with Guggenheim Partners' executives Mark Walter and Todd Boehly, who formed Guggenheim Baseball Management earlier this year to buy the Dodgers for more than $2 billion.
AEG has hired the Blackstone Group to manage its sale. Blackstone also handled the sale of the Dodgers, conducting the final auction at which Guggenheim swept in at the end with a winning bid that was half a billion more than the next closest buyer, hedge fund guy Steven Cohen, whose $1.6-billion offer had looked indomitable up to that point. Ironically, Soon-Shiong joined with Cohen late in the game, only to lose out.
And this is where it gets interesting. Last month, Blackstone — the part of the firm that invests in companies rather than advising them about selling sports teams and stadiums — put $125 million into Soon-Shiong's latest venture. NantWorks, which describes itself as a "convergence of next generation machine vision, object and voice recognition technologies, ultra-low power semiconductors, supercomputing, and advanced networks for the purpose of bringing the digital revolution to healthcare, commerce and digital entertainment to an entirely new level." The company is evidently concentrating on pioneering next-generation cancer drugs.
I actually watched Soon-Shiong present some general information about NantWorks objective at an event in Pasadena earlier this year, and he made a very compelling case for the idea and the technology.
On one hand, anytime something as expensive as a sports team or, you know, the Staples Center comes up for sale, there's going to be a short list of Very Rich People who are discussed as buyers. But in this case, a web of relationships already seem to exist among some potentially important players in the AEG sale, if it comes to pass in whole or in part.