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L.A. official defends panel tasked with evaluating downtown stadium

A group appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa includes several people with ties to AEG, the developer of the proposed downtown stadium. But the panel's co-chairman, Austin Beutner, says that won't be a problem.

February 18, 2011|By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times

Declaring that a new downtown football stadium could be "transformative," Los Angeles First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner on Thursday defended the makeup of a mayoral panel tasked with examining the proposal despite some members' personal and professional links to the developer, Anschutz Entertainment Group.

"Just because we know people in the community doesn't mean we're not going to do this right," Beutner, co-chairman of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's blue ribbon panel, said after the commission's inaugural meeting at City Hall.

Beutner, a former Wall Street investment banker, said he had known Philip Anschutz, AEG's billionaire chairman, for more than two decades and has long known Tim Leiweke, AEG's chief executive officer. AEG, an entertainment conglomerate that owns Staples Center and the L.A. Live complex downtown, is proposing to build the $1 billion stadium.

AEG has vowed to build the stadium without any cost to taxpayers in a city mired in a deep fiscal crisis that has already resulted in layoffs and service cuts. However, the stadium would stand on city-owned land — for a lease payment yet to be determined — and would require the floating of some $350 million in city bonds for construction of a wing of the Los Angeles Convention Center slated to be demolished as part of the project.

Among those on the mayor's blue-ribbon panel is former Gov. Gray Davis. His campaign received more than $93,000 in contributions from Anschutz-related companies in the run-up to his successful reelection bid in 2002, according to MAPLight.org, a Berkeley-based research group that tracks money in politics.

patrick.mcdonnell@latimes.com

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