Anschutz: No Sale of NFL Stadium Backer AEG; CEO Leiweke Leaving

The move comes about six months after a downtown Los Angeles NFL stadium project was approved by the LA City Council

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    The planned sale of Anschutz Entertainment Group -- the company behind plans to build an NFL stadium and owners of Staples Center, LA Live and two LA sports teams -- has come to a halt.

    Billionaire Philip Anschutz's company will retain owernship of sport-entertainment giant AEG, the Anschutz Company said in a statement Thursday. Long-time chief executive officer Tim Leiweke would be leaving by "mutual agreement" and Anschutz will take a "more active role in the company," the statement said.

    "From the very beginning of the sales process, we have made it clear to our employees and partners throughout the world that unless the right buyer came forward with a transaction on acceptable terms we would not sell the company," Anschutz said.

    AEG has a signfiicant footprint with the Staples Center and LA Live in downtown LA and plans to build an NFL stadium in the area if Los Angeles can acquire a franchise. The project also calls for a new convention center hall.

    The company owns the NHL's Los Angeles Kings -- the Stanley Cup champions -- and Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy.

    AEG's diverse portfolio may have been a detractor for potential investors, said David Carter of the USC Sports Business Institute. Some investors may have only wanted the sports teams, or just the venues, he said.

    "To take all of AEG in one bite probably was not that attractive to many," Carter said.

    The Los Angeles City Council signed off on the stadium plan, seen in an image below, in September, but uncertainty surrounded the future of the NFL in Los Angeles with Denver-based Anschutz's September announcement of a planned AEG sale. At that time, Leiweke said the company's ownership situation would need to be settled before the process of bringing an NFL team to LA could move forward.

    On Thursday afternoon, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called on AEG to continue with stadium plans.

    "For the past three years, the city has expedited our process and lived up to our end of a deal to bring the NFL to Los Angeles and create a world-class convention center," Villaraigosa said in a statement.

    "Now that AEG is no longer for sale and they have indicated that bringing an NFL team to LA remains a priority, I call on AEG to live up to its commitment by immediately sitting down with the NFL to reach an agreement."

    Villaraigosa said that the city will move forward on improvements to the convention center -- with or without AEG. He directed the city's chief administrative officer to return to him in 30 days with options "to ensure that the convention center modernization project moves ahead no matter what."

    Potential bidders for AEG had included biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and Guggenheim Partners LLC, whose CEO was part of the group that acquired the LA Dodgers in a $2.15 billion deal.

    LA has not had an NFL team since the Rams and Raiders left in the mid-1990s.

    Leiweke served as president and AEG CEO since 1996. He often was the face of the company at City Council meetings and other public events connected to the Farmers Field stadium project.

    His departure came as a surprise to some, USC's Carter said.

    "He was not just the face of the sports and entertainment scene in LA, but he was really the guy in Southern California with the relationship to everywhere," Carter said.

    Philip Anschutz issued a statement: "We appreciate the role Tim has played in the development of AEG, and thank him for the many contributions he has made to the company."

    Dan Beckerman will become president and chief executive officer of the company. He joined AEG more than 15 years ago and previously served as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

    "The company's operations will continue to be run by AEG's experienced senior executive team, most of whom have been with AEG for over a decade," Anschutz said. 

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