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.
Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Blackstone has been hired by AEG to explore a sale of the sports and entertainment giant.
Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) — the huge L.A.-based media, events, and sports company owned by reclusive Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz — is looking at selling itself. In whole? In parts? What does this all mean for an AEG-backed Downtown L.A. NFL stadium? It's unclear. Buyers are already being talked about, with the richest man in L.A., biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, already nominated as a bidder. Makes sense, as he was a late arrival to the bidding war for the L.A. Dodgers, losing out to the eventual new owners, Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Baseball Management.
He's worth around $7 billion. Phil Anschutz is worth around $8 billion. It would be a match of lucky $7 billionaire and the billionaire who has a billion more.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. AEG has hired Blackstone, an investment bank that managed the Dodgers sale, to work on a potential AEG deal. This isn't as easy as selling the Dodgers, which both had to be sold (former owner Frank McCourt put the team in bankruptcy over a dispute with Major League Baseball and also had to contend with paying his divorce settlement to his ex-wife) and was more concentrated in its assets. AEG is a far-flung holding company that owns pieces of L.A. sports teams, international sports teams, entertainment venues, live events, theaters, and even hotels.
In this rendering released by AEG, the proposed football stadium to house a NFL team in Los Angeles, California is seen. Today, AEG's parent company announced that it's seeking buyers for the entertainment and sports group, but L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said that the stadium plan will move forward.
Earlier today, the Anschutz Corporation announced that it's "exploring" or "planning" a sale of the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) — various media outlets reported the announcement differently — and has hired the the mergers-and-acquistions arm of the Blackstone Group to manage the bids. From the company's statement, however, the objective seems to be to transition "AEG to a new qualified owner," which sounds very much like this is the real deal.
A substantial minority stake in AEG — 49 percent — was nearly sold to Ticketmaster and Cablevision in 2008. The transaction didn't ultimately happen, but it was thought to be worth $200 million, making AEG at the time worth around $400 million in total. [UPDATE: I misread the NYTimes DealBook report from 2008 — AEG wasn't thought to be worth $1 billion at the time.]