While Anschutz Entertainment Group has pursued a downtown L.A. stadium for two years, owner Phil Anschutz first considered selling his company this summer, company president Tim Leiweke said today.
Anschutz informed the twelve members of AEG's management team at the company's annual summer retreat, Leiweke added. He said the entire management team signed new five-year contracts to show their commitment to the company.
Leiweke’s remarks followed a Los Angeles City Council committee’s approval of the Farmers Field project, which is contingent on the NFL moving a team to Los Angeles. AEG officials hope to get a team in March. It would then be four years of construction as a new Convention Center hall is built to replace the West Hall, which would be torn down to make way for the 76,000-seat football stadium.
The pending sale could ultimately help bring professional football back to Los Angeles, Leiweke said, noting that the new owner will be in place by the spring.
“Although people may not have loved the bump in the road, it was important that we get this out before the vote and I can assure you it’s not because there is a dislike or a distrust of Phil (Anschutz) within the NFL owners,” Leiweke said.
Leiweke also said that L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa knew that AEG could be put up for sale at least two weeks before the news was made public, although he added that Villaraigosa did not learn the sale was moving forward until the night before the news broke.
When the story went public, the mayor told reporters he had known of the potential sale for some time, but he refused to be more specific. A spokesman today confirmed the timeline sketched out by Leiweke.
Asked whether a new owner would honor those new five-year contracts with AEG's managers, Leiweke said he isn't concerned.
“I don’t sit around in my life and worry about the negative, and I don’t sit around at night thinking I don’t have a job,” he said.
The Ad Hoc Committee on the Downtown Stadium met for two and a half hours today to review the community benefits of the package. The Los Angeles City Council is expected to give its final approval on Friday.
If and when AEG gets an NFL team, company executives would return to the city council for an OK on the financial package, which includes $314 million in bonds to build the new Convention Center Hall. Those bonds would be repaid by AEG through lease revenues and Mello-Roos bonds. If interest rates increase, the city could see a $27 million shortfall on the project. In that event, AEG and the city of Los Angeles would split the cost of the deficit.