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The Inside Track | Q&A WITH CASEY WASSERMAN

He Hasn't Given Up on NFL Team in L.A.

January 25, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Casey Wasserman, owner of arena football's Avengers and grandson of late movie mogul Lew Wasserman, wants to become the owner of an NFL franchise in Los Angeles.

Wasserman, 28, was a member of the coalition that last year investigated building a downtown football stadium next to Staples Center, and he has prime seats for the Super Bowl. He'll be sitting with Roger Goodell, the NFL's chief operating officer and the most likely candidate to step in whenever Commissioner Paul Tagliabue retires.

Question: Do you want to be the controlling owner of a team?

Answer: The Los Angeles owner, whether that's majority or controlling. I think for a team to be successful in Los Angeles, an L.A. individual or group of individuals needs to be intimately involved in that franchise. The NFL has tried to do that in lots of cities, whether it be in St. Louis or Baltimore or what have you. They understand the power of local ownership in terms of helping to develop the team's success.

Q: Would you be willing to build a stadium if you didn't have a stake in the team?

A: I don't think that's a likely scenario, that a private individual would act as a landlord to an NFL team.

Q: What do you envision for Los Angeles in the next five years?

A: I believe in the next five years there will certainly be an NFL team in Los Angeles. I think there are opportunities to relocate teams to Los Angeles. I hopefully think that the dialogue in L.A. will center around what can Los Angeles and Southern California do to provide the right deal to deliver that NFL team to L.A.

Q: So you're saying the ball is in L.A.'s court, not the NFL's court?

A: From the perspective of rallying the community and focusing on what's necessary to deliver the right stadium deal, yes. In partnership, though, with the NFL, to deliver the right team under the right circumstances with Super Bowls and everything else that comes with an NFL team in Los Angeles. So 100% of 50% is L.A.'s responsibility, with private individuals.

Q: The NFL's TV contracts expire after the 2005 season. Is there a TV mandate to get something done in L.A. as soon as possible?

A: I don't believe that the networks have mandated to the NFL to put a team in Los Angeles. But I do think the networks would absolutely like to see a team in Los Angeles.

Q: What's your relationship with Roger Goodell?

A: I first met Roger Goodell in 1986 at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, when he was first working at the National Football League and I was attending the Super Bowl as part of (late commissioner) Pete Rozelle's group with my family. And we've developed a relationship ever since.

Q: Is the downtown coalition still intact, and who is still willing to commit money to bringing an NFL team here?

A: Phil Anschutz has made it clear he does not want to be involved today in an NFL franchise. As far as the group, I will tell you that we're prepared to put in money, and Ron Burkle's prepared to put in money.

Q: Is there enough money there to get it done?

A: Absolutely. Either of us could do it individually, and I'll still tell you that the two of us together would probably include more people because I think it's important to have a group that's representative of Los Angeles as a whole.

Q: Are you engaged in any type of dialogue with the NFL?

A: No. Not specifically to bringing a team or building a stadium at a particular site in Los Angeles, no.

Q: Do you have a relationship with the Chargers?

A: A company I owned a piece of had a consulting arrangement with the Chargers that ended 12 months ago at least. I know Dean Spanos. I've met Alex Spanos once. I guess that's the extent of my relationship with the Chargers. I am friends with Dean Spanos.

Q: What's the status of the land adjacent to Staples. Have those options expired?

A: Yes.

Q: So you don't have any connection to that land anymore?

A: Only the land that AEG owned prior to all of this starting. Beyond that there's no other land that's owned currently.

Q: You've said the dialogue needs to change in L.A. What do you mean?

A: Dating back to 1995 when this all started, it was Site A versus Site B versus Site C, regardless of name. It was always sites competing with other sites, courting favor with either the NFL or a team. And the truth of the matter is the NFL has an economic system in place that's well established, that frankly defines what works and doesn't work for an NFL team in a particular city. So what the city of Los Angeles and private individuals should be doing is trying to find the best scenario, no matter what site that is, that fits the NFL economic model -- with the understanding that in the city of Los Angeles this is going to be a private transaction.

Q: Would you be willing to throw your weight behind the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl?

A: I would be willing to throw my weight behind any site that delivers an NFL team, that allows that NFL team to thrive from the economic benefits of being in Los Angeles.

Q: So if the Coliseum went out and cut a deal with an NFL team, you would support that?

A: If the Coliseum could cut a deal with an NFL team that delivered all the necessary requisites, which means all the parking, all the facility needs, giving you the freedom on design, freedom on construction, freedom on the commercialization of the facility, freedom to garner revenue streams, the control of the building, all the things that are necessary for an NFL team, I would support the Coliseum.

Q: Does that represent a softening of your stance on the Coliseum?

A: No, because to date they haven't proven we can do that. And they have to prove they can do that better than any other site in Los Angeles.

Q: Which stadium faces fewer hurdles, the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl?

A: It certainly feels like the Rose Bowl has less hurdles. But there has been no concrete plan that has been proposed yet, so that's not entirely fair to say. It's hard to know what the plan is for the Rose Bowl.

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