Jon Regardie is executive editor of the Los Angeles Downtown News
Tim Leiweke’s breakup with Phil Anchutz is big, but it’s just part of a bigger story: Downtown LA is exploding. When Anschutz Entertainment Group President and CEO Tim Leiweke abruptly left the mega-company this month, downtowners treated it as the biggest surprise since a gaggle of Greek soldiers hid in the belly of a wooden horse. It was understandable: Leiweke was a brilliant salesman and dealmaker who drove the creation of billions of dollars worth of Downtown projects, like Staples Center and L.A. Live. He was the public face of the company and also part of a perfect partnership with AEG’s media-averse owner Phil Anschutz. Like Tom Cruise’s Jerry Maguire and Renee Zellweger’s Dorothy, they completed each other—though whether Tim had Phil at “hello” is unknown.
But now it’s goodbye. And maybe not such a surprise. After all, a whopping seven high-profile Downtown institutions or offices are blowing up or melting down. Wherever you look, a community leader is enmeshed in a struggle for supremacy or even survival.
Up on Grand Ave, take MOCA, please. Downtown’s leading museum was imploding financially even before Jeffrey Deitch became director in 2010. Three of the five curators have left and, even more frightening, museum officials last year were considering an entire exhibit based on the art of disco. It just rejected a takeover offer from LACMA and said it would remain independent, but fundraising is anemic and its endowment is still $75 million too light.
Things are also unsettled for the Los Angeles Times, the community’s biggest media property. In 1995 BC—that stands for Before Craigslist—the paper made so much money reporters reportedly flew business class. Now, owner the Tribune Company has emerged from bankruptcy and the Times is on the market. Some say a team of Austin Beutner and Eli Broad could buy and save the paper. Others whisper that the GOP-funding Koch brothers are interested. It’s the best good vs. evil debate since Batman battled Bane.
Just around the corner from the Times is the Archdiocese, the most powerful and influential religious entity in Southern California. In February an unprecedented fracas erupted when Archbishop Jose Gomez stripped off Cardinal Roger Mahony’s epaulettes because he shuffled pedophile priests to unsuspecting parishes … which didn’t keep the Cardinal from flying to Rome for the papal conclave.
Back down the street to City Hall, where the mayor’s race runoff between Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel is about to get super messy. During the primary Team Greuel proved they’re ready to bring a bazooka to a knife fight. If they follow the same tack—and everyone believes they will—then Garcetti’s squad will have to respond to the broadsides. Expect to see some of the ugliest tactics since Wile E. Coyote went after the Road Runner.
The Ninth District seat, where Jan Perry is termed out, is also in question. Former council aide Ana Cubas and State Sen. Curren Price are in the runoff, even though both of them just moved into the district a few months before the election. Now these two new residents are trying to convince longtime district inhabitants that they honestly, truly, deeply care about them.
Even the tallest building in the West is under pressure. Investors from Singapore bought the 72-story U.S. Bank Tower this month for about $37 million … as designs for the coming billion-dollar Wilshire Grand hotel replacement call for an uninhabited spire that will sneakily climb higher than the roof of U.S. Bank Tower. In the 1996 movie Independence Day, aliens blew up the landmark. The current situation isn’t quite as bad.