Cranky Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz has pulled AEG off the market after seven months of offering the entertainment conglomerate that owns Staples Center and L.A. Live to potential buyers. Anschutz had sought something like $10 billion for the 100 sports, retail, and concert businesses AEG controls. Most observers -- based on income projections -- believe the company is worth less than $7 billion.
Before today's unexpected announcement, news sources had pegged the top bid for AEG -- by the Qatar Sovereign Fund and Colony Capital, a hedge fund -- at about $6 billion. Other possible bidders, their offers never confirmed, were said to include Ron Burkle, Patrick Soon-Shiong, and Guggenheim Partners (owners of the Dodgers).
Anschutz is quoted in a company press release as planning a larger and more active role in managing AEG, suggestive of a corporate team in trouble.
As Anschutz stepped back in, frontman Tim Leiweke, AEG's president and chief executive officer since 1996, was shown the door. AEG's press released blandly noted that "(w)e appreciate the role Tim has played in the development of AEG and thank him for the many contributions he has made to the company. We wish him well in his new endeavors."
Leiweke's principle contribution to AEG had been to bully City Council members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa into becoming ardent cheerleaders for AEG's stadium deal. But even as city officials rushed to reaffirm their fealty last fall, Anschutz was putting the company on the block and without an end game for inducing the National Football League to bring a team back to Los Angeles.
The downtown stadium died then, only no one was willing to pull the plug.
By then, the farcical spectacle of elected officials rushing to embrace the unappetizing Anschutz had already changed state law to shield AEG from protracted litigation of its stadium's environmental impacts. It had included Leiweke's repeated chastising of city officials when they didn't show Anschutz enough respect. It had meant turning over to AEG the city's poorly performing convention center in a complicated scheme to cover its debts while rebuilding the parts to be taken down to build a stadium.
In fact, this farce had included pretty much whatever Anschutz wanted in whatever form he required and with the help of so many barefaced lies: Leiweke's, Mayor Villaraigosa's, Council Member Jan Perry's, and city CAO Miguel Santana's.
It also demanded that everyone involved accept the delusion that NFL team owners actually wanted a stadium downtown and on Anschutz's impossible terms. That delusion broke Tim Leiweke. It made fools of council members and the mayor. It made Santana and the department heads who served that delusion complicit in misleading voters.
I wrote in these pages in September 2012, "If Farmer's Field is ever built, it won't be L.A.'s stadium. It won't even be the fans' stadium; it will be AEG's, right down to the corporate skyboxes, the wall spanning LED billboards, the cynical political deals, the payoffs and false promises, and the overpriced beer."
It's a question no longer of "if," despite Anschutz's comment to the Los Angeles Times that a downtown stadium, already named Farmer's Field, would be built ... if the deal was good enough. It will never be good enough for AEG.
Farmer's Field is just another "potter's field" where orphaned deals and the careers of their corporate minions are buried without a tear and where political reputations are laid uneasily to rest.