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T.J. SIMERS

Beckham's only taxing our patience now, but just wait

Tim Leiweke still insists AEG's $250-million signing of David Beckham was a good investment. But what he really wants to talk about is governor's proposed entertainment tax.

January 28, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

"I'm angry," said Tim Leiweke, Anschutz Empire honcho, and I hadn't even brought up the Kings or mentioned the fiasco/flop/fraud that is David Beckham.

Leiweke is upset with the Governor, but now that Beckham's name is out there amid glorious reports we might never see him here again, I thought this the ideal time for Leiweke to admit how Beckham bombed here -- given his arrival's hype two years ago and so far getting five goals for $250 million.

And some people think Andruw Jones was the all-time bust.

There are reports coming out of Italy, where Beckham is playing soccer for AC Milan, that his team would like to keep him.

Hard to say we'd miss him because in a way it's like he's never been here. Paul DePodesta made a bigger impact on the local sports scene than Beckham.

I figured Leiweke and the Anschutz Empire would be thrilled with the report Beckham was wanted elsewhere, giving them the chance to secure a rebate on their bloody-awful investment.

"David is under contract to the Galaxy, and I had a good, straightforward conversation with him before he left and he loves it in L.A.," Leiweke said. "He wants a better Galaxy team, we're going to have a better team and David has no interest in going.

"We have a contract, we have a handshake, his kids go to school here, end of story. There is no story. He's going to return to the Galaxy."

How will we know when he's back, you know, the old "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there, does it make a noise?"

"I completely disagree," Leiweke said. "I stand by what I said. This is a world-class impactful player, and it's still a very good move for soccer here. And he's proving me right if you watched the goal he scored for Milan the other day."

I'd probably watch the ants in the backyard build new trails before I'd watch soccer waiting for the off chance Beckham might score.

"Let's leave it up to the people -- who do you think is more authoritative on this subject?" Leiweke said, and I'd remind you Leiweke has been the architect of the Kings' success the last several years.

I know people, of course, so I checked in with Aniceforo Hernandez, better known as "John" to his customers at the Mini Gourmet in Yorba Linda.

He plays soccer every Sunday. His wife coaches the soccer team, and spends most Sundays telling her husband what to do, so in addition to playing the same position as Beckham, obviously he has a lot in common with Mr. Posh.

On Father's Day, Hernandez's wife pulled him from the game because she didn't like the way he was playing.

"She's really cute," Hernandez said.

"Your wife?"

"No, Posh," he said. "I was really excited when Beckham came to town, but I don't care anymore. He's always on the bench. He used to be really good, but he's older."

Beckham's greatest achievement to date in L.A. is going to Lakers playoff games and having folks recognize him when his face appears on the overhead scoreboard.

"I look at attendance, teams coming into the league, TV ratings, and we wouldn't do any of that without David," Leiweke said. "We will not succeed here with Beckham until we win on the pitch, but we're going to be in position to do that this season."

I'd remind you at this time Leiweke has been the architect of the Kings' success the last few years.

OK, so Beckham is coming back to L.A., and you know how he's been missed, but Leiweke is still all fired up.

"I can't believe it," he huffed, as if this is the first time the Kings have been in last place.

"No one is paying attention to the family entertainment tax being proposed by the governor," Leiweke said. "I'm shocked. The part of the economy in this state that is still working is tourism -- people coming to places like Disneyland, Universal Studios. . . .

"The governor wants to add a 10% tax to all sports events to help cover the budget deficit. That's like putting a brick wall around California. You think the NFL is going to take a 10% haircut to come here with a Super Bowl?

"How would you like to be the Lakers, who have luxury tax issues, wanting to re-sign Kobe and then being told to write a check to the state on top of that? You know they're going to have to pass it on to the customer."

Come on, do you think the Dodgers are going to pass it on to their customers?

Leiweke & Co. obviously have an interest in such a tax after adding L.A. Live to the city landscape.

"Selfishly, yes, we have spent $2.5 billion to build an entertainment district and go after every event we can for the area," he said. "Why penalize any event coming here with another 10% tax? We might as well shut down."

Anyone interested in not paying more for tickets might want to e-mail the Terminator: www.gov.ca.gov/interact.

"This will impact Bruin games, the Trojans, all sports events in California, amusement parks," Leiweke said. "We're laying people off and now we're going to kill the entertainment industry?"

Saturday's boxing match at Staples, Leiweke noted, attracted more than 20,000 fans with 8.5% in taxes being collected -- 5% to the state boxing commission, 3.5% to the city.

"You think we're going to see boxing here again if the tax is 18.5%? It will go to Vegas," Leiweke said, Las Vegas demanding 4% in taxes, Texas 3% and New York 3% with a $50,000 cap.

"We pay property taxes, sales taxes, employee taxes and we don't get any breaks and shouldn't get any breaks. We do our part," he said. "I understand an increase in sales tax might be in order because we have to solve this budget crisis, but it's wrong to pick out one industry -- and one that contributes to our top economic interest in this state."

I know this, they charge 10% more to watch Beckham play with the Galaxy, and I'm just not going to go.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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