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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Anschutz as NFL Owner? That's Entertainment!

February 11, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

I've met billionaire Philip Anschutz. I remember him talking about his kids and their soccer games, and maybe that's why it was the last time we chatted, because he was so boring.

I lost track of the guy, probably because we don't frequent the same Denny's, until I read recently he's trying to monopolize the entertainment world. I thought that was really funny because what would someone who operates four soccer teams know about entertainment?

But the story said he's in the process of buying all of our neighborhood movie theaters, and while I'm not surprised he has run out of friends and relatives willing to watch home videos of his kids, now we're going to get them.

I read farther, however, shocked to discover this guy from Colorado is already basically in charge of all L.A. entertainment.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group, a collection of 32 companies, has the concert business wrapped up, managing Staples Center, the Forum, the Kodak Theater, which will be home to the Academy Awards starting next year, and L.A. Live, a 7,000-seat theater to be built across from Staples.

AEG also owns the Kings, the Galaxy, has a piece of the Lakers and Sparks with the right to buy them if Jerry Buss sells, is entertainment partners with Fox, which owns the Dodgers, and is working on a $100-million national training academy in Carson for soccer, tennis, track and cycling.

I was thinking about all this while driving past the Den of Iniquity, which until Saturday night's professional wrestling football debut, had been known as the Los Angeles Coliseum, proud home to two Olympics, a Billy Graham crusade, the Pope's visit, JFK's nomination acceptance speech and a ton of really good football--if you don't count those USC games with Paul Hackett as coach.

Now that we have hit rock bottom, I realized it's time for L.A. to use Anschutz's entertainment expertise, and pursue a privately funded, state-of-the-art stadium at the Coliseum site to get the NFL's attention and contribute to L.A.'s 2012 bid for the Olympics.

Anschutz will want to talk soccer, of course, but if the World Cup is going to come back to this country, it's going to need a showcase stadium, and this way his kids might get tickets. Billionaires like free tickets.

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ALL THIS MAKES too much sense. The NFL needs a heavyweight like Anschutz and his track record of success here, and in a way, Anschutz needs the NFL.

He has already made himself king of the sports no one cares about, and while his business intentions are to be the end-all to live entertainment in L.A., without the NFL he will never have completed the circle.

The NFL has said from the outset, if there is a worthy stadium in L.A., a football team will be here almost immediately. The Saints, Vikings, Raiders, 49ers and Chargers are on the prowl and the battle for L.A. would be far more entertaining than the recent Super Bowl.

Anschutz is a lifelong risk-taker with a growing entertainment company that has become expert in building and managing sports and concert venues, and he is also someone who did it in a city that prides itself in not surrendering a public dime for such things. Ground is expected to be broken later this year on a parking garage that will lead to the building of a hotel and restaurants near Staples.

The AEG expertise, which includes work on stadium naming rights, sponsorships and media marketing, gives Anschutz an edge on everyone else here.

This is a savvy businessman who has met the L.A. political challenge and survived, constructing an arena that was just selected in the concert industry as the best in the country. This is someone with the financial backing and acumen to move the NFL to take something that sounded so farfetched as the Figueroa Corridor seriously.

This is also someone who has the credentials to talk with credibility and be welcomed into the NFL fraternity. He's already business partners in soccer with Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots; Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs; and Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Now I wouldn't want Anschutz to be the owner of L.A.'s team until he's willing to say in public why he enjoys soccer, but if he followed the Staples Center-Laker blueprint he would only own a piece of the team at the outset and be a silent partner. This would allow the team's current owner to remain in control, which is probably the only way anyone will agree to move their team here.

The concern here, of course, is that we're dealing with the NFL and a billionaire, and someone is going to have spend a quarter to make the first call to get this thing rolling.

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OAKLAND MAYOR Jerry Brown talked about a plan this week that would give the city

$100 million to settle a lawsuit with the Raiders, thereby freeing the team from its stadium lease. I wonder where they would go?

The governor of Louisiana also met this week with Saints' owner Thomas Benson to determine if there is a way to keep the team from having to move.

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IN READING THE Rick Pitino-Nevada Las Vegas updates, it seems talks heat up every time UCLA wins a big game.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Ron:

"How in the world do you cash a paycheck each week disseminating the malicious, shallow trash that you dump on the public?"

I endorse the back and go to the bank.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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