Explaining Southern California's economy

Shamu goes public: Could SeaWorld's IPO retire a whale of debt?

Baby Killer Whale Born At SeaWorld San Diego

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A mother and baby orcas, also called killer whales, swim at Sea World in San Diego. The company just filed for a $100 million IPO, much of which may go to put a dent in $1.7 billion of debt.

Last week, SeaWorld and its iconic orcas filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. It's fair to call this the "Shamu IPO," even though the original Shamu, who performed at the original SeaWorld in San Diego, died in 1971. SeaWorld has kept the moniker around as a sort of branded stage name for orcas.

SeaWorld also operates marine-based theme parks in Orlando, Florida, and San Antonio, Texas; the parent company, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, runs eight other venues in the U.S. And that parent company is owned by Blackstone, a huge private equity firm that bought SeaWord from Anheuser-Busch in 2009.

(Blackstone, with another aspect of its business, also managed the sale of the Dodgers last year and is currently involved with the sale of sports and entertainment colossus AEG.)

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Why LA should be glad Steven Cohen didn't buy the Dodgers

Hedge Fund Manager Charged In Major Insider Trading Case Appears In Court

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Former hedge fund portfolio manager Mathew Martoma exits a New York federal court after being charged in one of the biggest insider trading cases in history. He worked for CR Intrinsic Investors LLC, a firm that was associated with Steven Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors.

Speculation about the size of a potential deal for AEG — estimates range from $8-$10 billion — has quickly made Angelenos forget about the $2-billion-plus price that Guggenheim Baseball Management and Magic Johnson paid for the L.A. Dodgers earlier this year. Angelenos may have forgotten something else: Until Guggenheim Partners swept in from Chicago to add another half billion to the deal, the price for team was hovering around $1.6 billion and the leading bidder was Steven Cohen.

As I explained at the time, Cohen — one of Forbes' wealthiest Americans, with a net worth north of $8 billion — was one of the few bidders for the Dodgers who could basically write a check for the team. In fact, that seemed the likely outcome, until Mark Walter and Guggenheim emerged from the background. Cohen had even paired up with local L.A. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, the richest guy in town. It wasn't enough in the end to trump Guggenheim's bid.

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What Larry Ellison brings to the AEG sale — $41 billion

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison demonstrates Or

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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. The third-richest man in the U.S. might be a buyer for AEG.

It looks like Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle and number three on the latest Fortune 400 list of the richest Americans, may join the bidding for AEG, the entertainment and sports conglomerate that was recently put up for sale by multibillionaire owner Phil Anschutz.

Ellison's arrival on the bidding scene, when is being managed by the investment bank Blackstone, isn't exactly a surprise. He has shown and interest in sports teams in the past and has been involved with the America's Cup yacht race. In 2010, he bought a tennis professional tennis tournament held each year in Indian Wells.

If, as Reuters reports, his interest is legitimate, he joins a host of potential bidders, including Patrick Soon-Shiong, the richest man in Los Angeles, Guggenheim Partners (a subsidiary of which bought the Dodgers earlier this year for more than $2 billion), and private-equity firms, including Los Angeles' Colony Capital and Mitt Romney's old firm, Bain Capital.

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AEG sale: Guggenheim Partners and Soon-Shiong form bidding group

Government And Business Leaders Speak At Urban Economic Forum In Los Angeles

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Magic Johnson greets Patrick Soon-Shiong during a Urban Economic Forum co-hosted by White House Business Council and U.S. Small Business Administration. They could be partners (sort of) if Soon-Shiong and Guggenheim Partners buy AEG.

Patrick Soon-Shiong — the richest man in Los Angeles, minority owner of the Lakers, and recently thwarted suitor for the Dodgers — has reportedly hooked up with none other than the investors who did the thwarting on his billion-plus bid for the Boys in Blue: Guggenheim Partners.

Or at least the adventurous investing subset of Guggenheim — a relatively staid Chicago-based manager of insurance-fund investments and other assets totaling around $180 billion — made up of CEO Mark Walter and executive Tim Boehly. They formed Guggenheim Baseball Management with Magic Johnson as a front man to snatch the Dodgers away from Soon-Shiong and hedge-funder Steven Cohen at the eleventh hour, with a bid more than $500 million above what anyone had expected.

It was the biggest deal in U.S. sports up to that point. But if Soon-Shiong, Walter, Boehly and whoever else they yank onboard manages to buy all of AEG, the deal would blow the Dodgers' $2 billion away. It could go for anywhere from $4 billion to even as high as $7 or $8 billion.

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Does the NFL think Phil Anschutz is a cheapskate?

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AEG

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.

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