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Leiweke: Kings 'headed in the right direction'

November 06, 2008|Helene Elliott

Tim Leiweke is chief executive of AEG, which owns the Kings and an array of sports and entertainment venues and companies around the world. He is the Kings governor and an avid fan, but his main focus now is overseeing the development of LA Live, the $2.5-billion sports-entertainment-residential complex downtown.

He sat with The Times recently and discussed the state of the team.

Does part of what you have going on include selling part of the club?

No.

Then have you retrenched on that, or is it still a possibility?

I know people are out there saying, 'They're going to sell the club.' We're not out looking to sell the club. It's not for sale. We had somebody call us who wanted to buy in. They've gone away. Others have now kind of jumped in saying, 'Can we talk to you?' and we've said no.

So I'm not sure if the fans will be sad or happy. I understand the frustration with us, but I'm hoping what they also understand is we took a club that went through two bankruptcies. We've never had an issue financially with this club. You can question our management, and yes there are times we've made mistakes on management, but the one thing we have always done is bring financial stability back to the club. Good times, bad times. Losses -- we haven't had profits, despite what Forbes says.

But the reality is, the best thing for this club right now is I don't know too many other owners that would allow their general manager to spend $100 million like we just did. We have one more contract hopefully he's going to get done, but the reality is, count the amount of money we just spent here in the last couple of months, and assuming he gets one more guy done, it's close to $100 million we spent as an organization.

Most people will look at the short term and say, "Oh, but the budget is only $42 million or whatever and they're cheap."

The budget's only $42 million because if you look at all this money we just spent, we had to have the room to spend it. And so there's one thing [General Manager] Dean [Lombardi] is extremely good at, it's charts. He will sit there and ponder for days at a time where we're at position by position and budget over the next five years. And when you spend the kind of money we just spent, tying the guys up that we tied up, you'd better make sure that you're in a position where you can budget it, afford it and keep everyone together under the cap. We did and we're pretty happy about that.

That's why our budget is what it is. It's about predictability, not about cheapness.

If Lombardi were to come to you and say, "I have a chance to get an elite goalie I think can put us over the top," would you give him approval to do that?

Yup. Period.

Does it depend on who it is?

I'm not going to get into that. If Dean comes to me and says he's elite, Dean's our hockey guy. If I'm going to question elite, I'd better get rid of our hockey guy. We're not getting rid of our hockey guy. I trust Dean. . . . If he came to me tomorrow and said, 'I've got an elite winger that I can get -- a young guy that's willing to come here and we can tie him up long-term but he's going to cost us this amount of money per year,' the answer would be yes.

You may miss the playoffs this season as well. Can you live with that if you see progress in enough areas?

Yeah, although Dean would agree, and we've had conversations with Dean and [assistant GM Ron] Hextall -- "a lot more pressure on us this year, boys." The first two years was a hall pass to fix everything that was wrong, to stockpile the system to get the kids in here and grow them. Now we're in our third year and this can't be just about tying the kids up long-term or making the right draft picks. We've got to show now that they're as good as we think they're going to be.

Will this team lose money this year?

Yes. Not even close. We're much better this year. And I'm not crying, I'm not bitching, I'm not moaning. I'm not complaining. I'm not renegotiating, spinning. I'm not doing any of this. I'm just acknowledging the fact we are going to lose money. We're OK with that because quite frankly we're going to lose a lot less money this year than we did last year. We're headed in the right direction and most of all we have a team that you say, 'These guys are fun to watch and we're headed in the right direction.' There's optimism here.

I think we're OK with that. Mr. [Phil] Anschutz is probably the most pleased I've seen him in about three or four years.

Well, I guess we all have to take your word for what he thinks, don't we?

I keep on telling him, "Phil, the good news is they're kicking my . . . every Saturday in the letters to the editor. The bad news is I'm getting tired of it and I think it's time for you to step up and take your fair share of the kicking."

What about getting more local games in HD?

We're working on not only high-def but a bigger and better broadcasting package for the Kings. So we're in good conversations with Fox and we're working on that.

Anything else you'd like to add?

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