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Does the NFL think Phil Anschutz is a cheapskate?

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The fate of a new NFL stadium in downtown L.A. — and the return of pro football to Los Angeles — has been called in doubt by AEG's decision to put itself up for sale.

That's the implication from today's L.A. Times' man-on-a-wire profile of AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, which depicts the executive as furiously trying to sustain support for an NFL stadium in downtown L.A. as the company he effectively built goes on the block. 

It's starting look as though Phil Anschutz — the Colorado billionaire who owns AEG — has been tangling with the NFL over just how much it would cost him to get the critical element of the stadium project in place: the team. This is from the LAT:

Anschutz, 72, risked billions of dollars backing AEG's Los Angeles developments starting with Staples Center in the late 1990s, and he insisted on being rewarded with a piece of a football team at below-market value, some observers said. Team owners have been clear, however, that they believe a discount sale would devalue all their franchises at a time when team prices have been dramatically rising.

One of the teams that could end up calling Farmers Field home is the St. Louis Rams, which Forbes values at about $800 million. According to a Times report from earlier this year, Anschutz was prepared to cover the cost of the entire purchase, a big change from his initial plan to buy only 50 percent of a relocating team. (Part-ownership is consistent with how Anschutz runs his business — AEG has half the Kings and only a third of the Lakers.)

But Anschutz now finds himself in a difficult position, business-wise. He owns stakes in pro sports teams in a major media market. Those teams could fetch top dollar as part of an AEG sale, given how much sports teams are selling for these days in Southern California (Dodgers: $2 billion; Padres: $800 million).

But if AEG or some post-AEG-sale group does intend to move forward with the new NFL stadium, Anschutz could be recoiling at the idea of seeing his inflated gains with the Lakers, Kings, and Galaxy soccer team shifted immediately over to an overpriced play for an NFL team. The Rams at $800 million? Do I hear $1.5 billion? Current Rams owner Stan Kronke, himself a billionaire, may have number like that in mind.

Anschutz may not like it, but a high price is exactly what the NFL wants to see.

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