The family of the pop star had filed a wrongful death suit in 2010 against entertainment giant AEG. The nation’s second-largest concert promoter, which has its hands in more than 100 global arenas and stadiums and numerous sports teams, hired Michael Jackson for a massive comeback tour that was to launch in summer 2009. Jackson died that June of an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, and his doctor Conrad Murray eventually was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is serving two years in prison. The verdict concludes the 21-week trial that captivated the likes of HLN and truTV, with the jury ruling just now that while AEG hired Murray, the company did not contribute to Jackson’s death. AEG’s lawyers argued it had no way of knowing Murray was a risk when he was hired. “I am pleased that the jury recognized that this lawsuit was without merit, and the entire AEG family looks forward to putting this unfortunate chapter behind us,” said AEG president and CEO Dan Beckerman in a release. The final rehearsals from the mega-tour that never was were captured in Sony’s 2009 documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It, which grossed $261 million worldwide.
Related: ‘This Is It’ Hits $200M Globally
Bunim/Murray Productions, AEG Live/AEG Network Live, and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas are shopping a new documentary series, Living with Def Leppard. The multi-episode project will take viewers into the world of the rock band via the VIVA Hysteria! Concerts, which took place earlier this year at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel. Bunim-Murray and AEG Network Live filmed performances of the 35-year-old band and moments from the band members’ point of view. The series also incorporates interviews with Def Leppard fans. It’s the band’s story told by the band, explained the producers, who think it has the potential to become a signature series which will showcase multiple bands. “This is sure to set a precedent for a new genre of TV custom made for the ultimate rock fans,” said John Meglen, president and co-CEO of Concerts West/AEG Live.
Bigtime lobbying efforts certainly aren’t merely reserved for the halls and haunts of Washington DC. A new report out today from the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission outlined issues that lobbying firms spent the most billable hours working on in LA during the first quarter of 2013. Among them was NBCUniversal’s “Evolution Plan,” the proposed $1.6B upgrade of its TV production facilities, office space and infrastructure on the Universal lot and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter area at its Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. The report says NBCUniversal paid more than $330,000 to a pair of lobbying outfits to win hearts and votes for its mammoth undertaking. Another big buyer of lobbying services at City Hall was CBS Outdoor, the CBS Corp-owned billboard giant that spent more than $205,000 to back its interests in outdoor advertising legislation, including the local hot-button issue of digital billboards. And LA Live owner AEG paid $130,000-plus for its quarter worth of lobbying efforts. Hollywood.
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.
Related: Philip Anschutz Decides To Hang On To AEG Read More »
Bidders for Philip Anschutz’s collection of live entertainment businesses may be narrowing. Bloomberg reports that Colony Capital is out in front for AEG now that Guggenheim Partners has dropped out. Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg says Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong remains in the auction, but is unlikely to make an offer near the $8B asking price. Guggenheim could reenter the bidding if the price drops. However, negotiations for AEG are currently on hold as Anschutz recovers from back surgery, Bloomberg sources said. Tom Barrack’s Colony is partnered with Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and is also understood to be bidding below the ask. It’s believed Anschutz could also decide not to sell the sprawling sports and entertainment operation that includes more than 100 global arenas and stadiums, numerous sports teams and is No. 2 in the world behind Live Nation in live concert promotions. Notably, AEG owns L.A.’s Staples Center as well as the Kings, the LA Galaxy, a stake in the Lakers and London’s O2 Arena, among other properties. It also is the driving force behind Farmers Field, the proposed downtown football venue that would draw at least one NFL franchise to L.A.
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.
Related: AEG Sale Could Clear Way For Philip Anschutz To Become An NFL Mogul Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »
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.
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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”. Read More »
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 Read More »
Don’t tell Live Nation executives that their concert acts are getting old. While one-time hitmaker Neil Diamond continues to hit the stage at age 70, Chairman Irving Azoff says that “every year there’s a Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.” He adds: “We’re managing all the winners of The X Factor. We predict the tour will be huge. It’s Idol plus The Voice plus Glee on steroids.” That kind of shameless self promotion was the order of the day this afternoon as Azoff and CEO Michael Rapino made the investment case for their concert venue, talent management, and ticketing colossus at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media Communications and Entertainment conference. Rapino says that “in an overall tough economic time, we’re thrilled that the industry came off a horrible year and stabilized…. We will finish the year flat to up as an industry and the early pipeline for 2012 looks good.”
Azoff says that Live Nation plans to take advantage of the crowds that will flock to Europe next year around the Summer Olympics in London. “The biggest names in the business will be on the road,” he says. “We’ll get a non-economy blip.” One of his mainstays, The Eagles, continues to tour and plans a Broadway show called (what else?) Hotel California. “No one knows whether the Rolling Stones are touring or not,” Azoff says. The execs say that they’re also making deals that could pay off — including … Read More »
Pay TV Companies Say ESPN Fumbled With Its $15B NFL Deal;
Ratings: NFL Kickoff Game Down Slightly From Last Year, Still Big
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
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No matter what the consumer will still get screwed. Anschutz Entertainment Group will roll out its much-hyped challenge to chief rival Live Nation Entertainment’s Ticketmaster this Saturday. So the battle is on. AEG has partnered with start-up Outbox Technology to form AXS with a plan to sell tickets through more than 100 arenas and theaters by the end of 2012. AEG — which owns L.A.’s Staples Center and London’s 02 Arena — was Ticketmaster’s biggest client, so not only will the loss hurt Ticketmaster’s bottom line but the new entity could challenge Ticketmaster’s dominance in this cutthroat biz. Turns out that a primary architect of AEG’s Outbox strategy is none other than Fred Rosen, who was Ticketmaster’s CEO in the 1980s and masterminded the company’s rise by creating a centralized ticket sales system used by the venues. The revenues came from service fees which, as anyone who’s bought a ticket to a live event in the past 20 years knows, have spiraled higher and higher. The AEG plan instead has the venues selling the tickets themselves via Outbox software that can be customized. AEG’s expansion into the ticket-sales business was seen as inevitable after the U.S. Justice Department approved the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger in 2010. But as a condition for that merger, the feds insisted that AEG have the opportunity to license Ticketmaster’s software. AEG ultimately chose … Read More »