Reuters dropped a fairly major bombshell last night, reporting that Philip Anschutz is considering selling his Anschutz Entertainment Group for a price of “several billion dollars,” a report later confirmed by Anschutz’s own execs. That’s the AEG that owns the Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy, the Houston Dynamo, a chunk of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Staples Center, and the nation’s second-largest concert promoter — and which, not incidentally, is currently trying to build a football stadium in downtown L.A. So, a slightly big deal.
Everyone concerned has rushed to insist that even if Anschutz is selling off his sports and entertainment business, nothing will change for the L.A. stadium plan: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, “I have the commitment from both [Anschutz and AEG president Tim Leiweke] that this sale will not affect plans for an NFL team to return to Los Angeles in the near future and will not affect my support for moving ahead with Farmers Field and the Convention Center site.” And Leiweke released a statement that said in part that AEG’s “virtuous circle” of entertainment businesses “uniquely positions us to execute new, world-class projects that no other company can imagine or attempt.”
It’s certainly possible that this won’t affect the stadium plans, especially if Leiweke remains at the helm of AEG: If you read the New Yorker’s long profile on Anschutz’ empire earlier this year, you’ll recall that the whole downtown sports/entertainment zone concept is Leiweke’s puppy, and Anschutz is just signing the checks. L.A. Times sportswriter T.J. Simers actually takes this so far as to speculate that if biotech billionaire (and Lakers minority owner) Patrick Soon-Shiong is a potential buyer as rumored, he’ll immediately move to buy the San Diego Chargers and relocate them to a new downtown L.A. stadium.
Speculation aside, though, anything could happen in a sale, and there’s no guarantee Leiweke will remain in place, or if he does that he’ll still have a boss who’s willing to sign blank checks for his construction projects. This is a major, major wild card, not just for L.A.’s NFL hopes but for the arena world in general, where AEG is one of two concert superpowers (along with LiveNation). The landscape is about to shift, and it’s anyone’s guess where it’ll end up.