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Business leaders pick up tab for Lakers parade

Mayor says no city tax dollars will be spent on today's celebration of the NBA champions.

June 17, 2009|Phil Willon and Richard Winton

Los Angeles taxpayers can enjoy today's victory parade for the newly minted NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers without worrying about the bill.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday that private donors have pledged to pay the estimated $900,000 cost of providing police and fire protection and city street services for the celebration, ensuring that no tax dollars will be necessary.

The cost of the parade created a dispute at City Hall over the weekend, with some City Council members and public employee union leaders saying they opposed using public money when Los Angeles faces its worst fiscal crisis in decades. The city plans to lay off 1,200 employees and furlough those who remain.

A defensive Villaraigosa said a group of generous donors, the Lakers and the owner of Staples Center agreed to pick up virtually all costs. Villaraigosa said the Lakers' celebration is needed more than ever, providing something to cheer for when Los Angeles is squeezed by high unemployment, home foreclosures and tough economic times.

"We're going to come together as a city," Villaraigosa said. "The reason why so many people from the private sector came forward is because they know this town deserves to revel in itself for a day. We need it."

The parade will begin at Staples Center at 11 a.m. and travel down Figueroa Street, ending at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. A rally will be held in the Coliseum, which will open to fans at 9:30 a.m.

Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive officer of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center, took the most active role in raising donations. Leiweke is a longtime Villaraigosa political supporter, and AEG won up to $270 million in city tax breaks to build the LA Live entertainment complex.

The Lakers and AEG had already pledged to pay more than $1 million in parade costs.

The list of donors includes:

* Casey and Laura Wasserman. Casey Wasserman is the grandson of former Universal Pictures Chairman Lew Wasserman.

* Jerry and Margie Perenchio. Jerry Perenchio is the former chairman of Univision Communications.

* Eli and Edythe Broad. Eli Board, founder of KB Home and the SunAmerica insurance firm, is a Los Angeles philanthropist actively involved in education, the arts and science.

* Haim and Cheryl Saban. Los Angeles billionaire and media executive Haim Saban is part of an investor group that owns Univision.

* Joe and Sharon Hernandez of Melissa's World Variety Produce, a major provider of specialty produce.

* Ed and Gayle Roski. Ed Roski owns Majestic Realty and hopes to build a football stadium in the city of Industry to attract an NFL team.

* The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The San Bernardino County tribe owns a casino in Highland.

The mayor did not reveal the amounts donated but aides said the money would be put in a private fund, and formally donated and approved by the City Council.

Leiweke said that he was shocked last Friday when Councilwoman Jan Perry said the city might have to decide between saving people's jobs and sponsoring the event. According to Leiweke, the mayor called after the Lakers won the title Sunday and said: "We have to find a way to underwrite it."

Leiweke said he started making calls Monday. "He and we picked up the phone and got it done in a day. I know people occasionally say this town doesn't have a business community," he said. "but it was fantastic what people did; so many good people stepped up and responded."

Leiweke said that the list of people to call on for such a donation "is pretty short: Casey is like a brother. Jerry Perenchio is the best guy in town. Haim is always giving and loves the Lakers. Eli Broad is L.A. Sharon and Joe [Hernandez] sit next to me courtside. Gail and Ed have an interest [in Staples]. And the mayor brought in San Manuel."

The mayor dismissed those who would criticize the city for hosting a parade for a lucrative sports franchise and wealthy athletes when families are struggling and city employees are facing furloughs: "If we hadn't had a parade, you'd have had a whole bevy of other people criticizing. How could we do that," Villaraigosa said at the Lakers' practice courts in El Segundo.

The president of the city's police union, which along with city firefighters is negotiating new labor contracts, praised city officials for avoiding dipping into the city treasury.

"It's good to see our city leaders being accountable to the public," Paul M. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said in a statement.

Council members Perry and Bernard C. Parks filed a motion to formally authorize the Lakers' parade, but with the understanding that "the event sponsors will reimburse the city for all fees and costs associated with this event," including police protection and other staffing necessary for street closures.

The motion instructs financial officials to account for all city expenses incurred during the parade and confirm that the city received full reimbursement. Because of procedural rules, the council is not expected to consider the motion until next week.

Police Chief William J. Bratton also appeared at the El Segundo news conference with Perry and Laker Derek Fisher. Bratton said the looters and vandals who struck downtown after the Lakers won the championship Sunday would be aggressively pursued. Bratton said officers are reviewing security video and media images to identify people who caused damage.

The chief said there would be "zero tolerance for any misbehavior" at the parade. About 1,700 officers will be on hand, according to law enforcement sources. Some will be working undercover. The LAPD will also have extra jailers and a mobile jail.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

Times staff writer Cara DiMassa contributed to this report.

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