Beginning in 2014, LA residents will no longer able to hear the sound of snapping fibulas and ulnas echoing throughout the basin on hot summer days. That’s because ESPN announced today it is officially ending the 10-year run of its made-for-TV extreme-sports event X Games Los Angeles and moving it to one of four cities: Austin, Chicago, Detroit, or Charlotte, NC. The shift comes as the latest four-year LA deal, with AEG, is set to expire after this year; with the company pondering a sale (it eventually reconsidered), no new deal could be reached, the network said today. ESPN whittled down qualifying bids from nine (including Pasadena and Long Beach) to these four, with a winner to be announced this summer. This year’s X Games Los Angeles runs August 1-4 and is part of an expanded schedule of 2013 events that includes overseas stops in France; Brazil, which just wrapped; Spain, the next games on the calendar May 16-19; and Germany. The Winter X Games Aspen were in January and that longtime home likely will shift too after the current contract expires after next year.
It’s no secret that recently exited AEG heavyweight Tim Leiweke is a hockey guy. He always was the LA Kings’ biggest supporter within the company that owns the Stanley Cup champs. But with today’s news that the exec is headed to Toronto to run Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, he might be walking into serious culture shock. The man who for more than a decade led AEG — the behemoth that turned the ho-hum area around LA’s Convention Center into a world-class entertainment and sports hotbed — is in for more media and fan scrutiny that he ever imagined.
This is the second round of bidding for Philip Anschutz’s collection of live entertainment businesses. But nobody outside of the AEG process seems certain about who’s participating. It’s widely believed that Blackstone Advisory Group, which is handling the auction, is weighing offers from billionaire Ron Burkle in a partnership with Patrick Soon-Shiong and Goldman Sachs, from Guggenheim Partners, and from Colony Capital with the Qatar Sovereign Fund. The Financial Times says that Westfield shopping center group and OneWest Bank’s Steven Mnuchin also are in. But Billboard’s veteran reporter Ray Waddell, who specializes in the live entertainment business, reports that he also hears that “bidders have not partnered up and yet another round of bids is still to come, and no short-list exists yet.” Last month Waddell interviewed AEG chief Tim Leiweke who said that the process had dragged out because “more people were interested than we ever imagined.” He added, though, that “We’re getting down to the final straws here.” All that was left was to “get Mr. Anschutz and [potential buyers] together on the right deal.” Outsiders expect the winner to pay at least $8B for AEG.
The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder says MLS Cup 2012 on December 1 will be his final competitive game with the club. Beckham has spent the past six seasons with the Galaxy, helping lead the club to three MLS Cup berths, including the third championship in club history last year when they beat the Houston Dynamo 1-0 in MLS Cup 2011. “I’ve had an incredibly special time playing for the LA Galaxy, however, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career,” Beckham said in a statement on the Galaxy’s website. “I don’t see this as the end of my relationship with the league as my ambition is to be part of the ownership structure in the future”. The Galaxy reached a 10-year broadcast deal with Time Warner Cable Sports in November 2011 that is the most lucrative in MLS history.
It’s the beginning of the beginning of the auction process for billionaire Philip Anschutz’ live entertainment business. The company is circulating a 25-page information memorandum that describes the operations being offered but without financial data, Reuters reports. Those who sign non-disclosure agreements should be able to see more details, including confidential numbers, by the end of the month. Anschutz is thinking big: bidders will have to offer about $10B or more just to make it to a second round, the wire service says citing unnamed sources.
The LA City Council today gave final approval to plans to build a new NFL stadium downtown, a key step in returning a pro football team to the nation’s No. 2 media market by 2017. The $1.5 billion project, which includes upgrading a portion of the adjacent LA Convention Center, is the one proposed to be privately funded by Anshutz Entertainment Group — the same AEG that has just put itself up for sale. That complication, plus the fact the plans face potential lawsuits from environmental and anti-poverty groups, usually means a governing body might have reservations about moving forward. But AEG gave city lawmakers a bit of assurance this week the key players who have carried the ball this far plan to stay, with AEG president Tim Leiweke saying earlier this week he has signed a deal to remain atop the company no matter who ends up buying it (AEG is financing the deal with help from city redevelopment bonds). It’s clear by the 12-0 vote that the Council is fully behind the 72,000-seat Farmers Field and the projected 10,000 temp and 4000 full-time jobs it will create. It now sets up the next step: finding a team.
Don’t count Philip Anschutz out as a potential owner of an NFL franchise in Los Angeles. Contrary to what some speculate, I’m told that the big reason the reclusive billionaire decided to put his AEG live entertainment business on the block is because it could provide him with the cash, and flexibility, to land a football team and stadium that would provide a legacy for him and his family — somewhat like Jerry Jones’ with the Dallas Cowboys. Anschutz would like to back away from live entertainment and ticketing. It’s a tough business that’s become tougher than ever as Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary have become more dominant. And, like a lot of people, Anschutz was impressed by the recent $2.15B deal to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers to Guggenheim Partners. It demonstrated just how lucrative it can be to own a trophy sports property in LA. No wonder he hired the bankers who handled the arrangements for Frank McCourt — Blackstone Advisory Group — to also manage the AEG auction. It features stakes in sports teams including the Los Angeles Lakers and the Kings, as well as real estate holdings.
UPDATE, WEDNESDAY AM: The company has put out a release confirming its intention to sell (posted below last night’s original story) and that it has hired Blackstone Advisory Partners — the firm that recently guided the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers — to help it find a buyer. Anschutz Co ended its announcement with the carrot of all carrots, saying any new owner “will have the historic opportunity to benefit from AEG’s strategy to reunite Los Angeles with the NFL, as AEG moves forward with its efforts to bring an NFL franchise to Farmers Field to be built at L.A. LIVE”.
All this time the NFL still doesn’t have a football team in the major TV market of Los Angeles. Now billionaire entrepreneur Philip Anschutz hasn’t given up on his plans to build a football stadium in Downtown LA to lure an NFL team (or 2) back to town, according to Bloomberg. The prospects of his AEG Worldwide proceeding with the long-discussed Farmers Stadium seemed to dim
Anschutz Entertainment Group, TV networks and city’s NFL fans are cheering today, but AEG is the most clear-cut winner. The California state Senate sent to Gov. Jerry Brown a bill streamlining the appeals process on the environmental impact report for AEG’s proposed $1.2 billion stadium near Staples Center. In return, the developers promised to build “the most environmentally friendly sports stadium in the country,” according to Sen. Alex Padilla, the L.A. Democrat who co-authored the bill. With the assurance of no drawn-out appeals on the EIR, AEG can start looking in earnest for NFL team that would like to call L.A. home. Politicians from both parties backed the bill, which passed the Senate 32-7. They cited the 23,000 construction and full-time jobs backers say will be created by the the stadium project, which includes a renovation of the L.A. Convention Center. The L.A. City Council cleared the project earlier this