AEG no longer for sale; Leiweke out

LOS ANGELES -- The Anschutz Company announced Thursday that it will retain ownership of Anschutz Entertainment Group and terminate the sales process for AEG.

AEG is owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, and its ownership interests include the Los Angeles Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions; the Los Angeles Galaxy, the two-time defending MLS Cup champions; and a portion of the Los Angeles Lakers. AEG also owns and operates Staples Center, which is home to the Kings, Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Sparks, as well as the Home Depot Center, which is home to the Galaxy and Chivas USA of Major League Soccer.

Tim Leiweke, who has served as president and CEO of AEG since 1996, will leave the company by mutual agreement.

Anschutz, as chairman of AEG, will resume a more active role in the company, with a particular focus on AEG's worldwide strategy and operations. Dan Beckerman will assume the position of president and CEO of AEG. Beckerman joined AEG more than 15 years ago and previously served as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer. Ted Fikre, who joined AEG in 1997, will become vice chairman of the company and continue as AEG's chief legal and development officer, as well as assume responsibility for AEG's governmental and media relations.

"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," Anschutz said in a statement. "We wish him well in his new endeavors."

AEG was put up for sale in September, and it appeared as though the company was close to being sold as the number of bidding parties narrowed. Colony Capital LLC was believed to be the front-runner in the auction after Guggenheim Partners LLC, which owns and operates the Dodgers, dropped out and Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong seemed unwilling to offer the $8 billion asking price. According to multiple sources familiar with the sale, all parties were bidding below AEG's asking price.

"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 in a statement. "From the very first days of AEG, my vision has been to tie together world-class real estate development structured around entertainment venues with premium sports and live entertainment content."

AEG also was behind Farmers Field, a proposed $1.8 billion football stadium in downtown Los Angeles adjacent to the Staples Center, which is cleared for construction contingent upon the company attracting an NFL team to Los Angeles. While the project was driven by Leiweke, Beckerman and Fikre played vital roles since its inception and will continue to push it with the backing of Anschutz.

The normally media-shy Anschutz, through a representative, declined multiple interview requests from ESPNLosAngeles.com, but he told the Los Angeles Daily News in an interview Thursday that the NFL needed to declare its intentions regarding the Los Angeles market.

"It's time for the NFL to get serious and decide what they want to do," Anschutz told the Daily News. "It doesn't do any good to sit on the sidelines all the time. Clearly a deal can get done. And by the way, this isn't a terribly complicated deal to get done."

Anschutz added that he is urging the NFL to sit down with his group and discuss a deal, the Daily News reported. "If they are serious about getting a deal done in L.A.," he told the newspaper, "we're pleased to be a part of making that happen."

While Dodger Stadium is often mentioned as an alternative site for a Los Angeles NFL stadium, should the Farmers Field project fall through, there have been no substantial discussions between the NFL and Guggenheim.

"Phil's active re-engagement in the operations of the company has brought a renewed spirit and passion to the management team's focus on AEG's next steps," Beckerman said in a statement. "Priority projects going forward include the development of Farmers Field adjacent to our L.A. Live campus and the pursuit of our plan to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles."

AEG's assets also include L.A. Live, a 27-acre sports and entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles anchored by Staples Center and Nokia Theatre, which regularly hosts the X Games, ESPYS, MTV Video Music Awards, Grammys and movie premieres. AEG also owns The O2 arena in London, which was used during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Additionally, AEG owns and operates a network of more than 100 arenas, stadiums and clubs in countries on five continents. The company also includes AEG Live, which produces music tours, festivals and special events, including the Coachella Music & Arts Festival, Stagecoach and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. AEG Live owns, operates or exclusively books 35 venues.

"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. "We will continue to set the standards in the industries in which AEG operates, bringing our unique vision and development model to entertainment locations throughout the world."