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AEG chief: Problems with NFL stadium deal in L.A. stem from years of mistrust

Tim Leiweke says NFL owners and L.A. officials 'don't have a lot of faith' in one another.

June 03, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Tim Leiweke and David Beckham chat while watching a Lakers game in their courtside seats at Staples Center this spring.
Tim Leiweke and David Beckham chat while watching a Lakers game in their… (Harry How / Getty Images )

AEG's Tim Leiweke said a big part of the problem in persuading Los Angeles to make a deal for a new football stadium is the rampant mistrust between the city and the NFL — largely created by so many false starts on stadium concepts.

Leiweke said NFL owners "don't have a lot of faith" in L.A., and L.A. "doesn't have faith in the NFL, either."

"There's a lot of distrust there," Leiweke, AEG's chief executive, told The Times this week.

In an hourlong interview, during which he said he set a July 31 deadline for the City Council to approve the framework of a downtown stadium deal, Leiweke touched on a number of topics, among them the deal itself, the challenge of securing a team and whether there's even substantial interest from the public in bringing a team back to the nation's second-largest market.

Calling the downtown concept "the best deal that's ever been made for any city in the history of the NFL," he said the proposal is largely misunderstood.

"The biggest thing people don't understand about the deal is they're all convinced that the $350 million in bonds is going to end up coming back to haunt the city or ultimately affect the general fund, or become a liability to the taxpayers," he said.

"Once people understand the way we're going to structure the bonds, and the fact that we're going to come in and write a check every year to back those bonds, then the only issue in that area is what if you go bankrupt? And we say, please, if we go bankrupt, then you have a far bigger issue than a football stadium or bonds. You've got a $3-billion project and a $6-billion company that goes away? That's not going to happen."

Leiweke said persuading a franchise to relocate — while allowing AEG billionaire Philip Anschutz to become a part-owner — is simpler than striking a deal with the city.

"There are 32 teams, and six or seven of those currently don't have a home that economically works," Leiweke said. "Are all six or seven of those going to solve their problems in their current marketplace? No. We're confident that it's not just going to be one team. I think there are going to be at least two, probably more, that are going to have to look at moving in order to remain competitive within the league."

Asked if he thinks football fans in L.A. are clamoring for a team of their own — something that isn't readily apparent — Leiweke said he has no doubts about the ability of L.A. to support either one or two teams, both in terms of selling tickets and getting sufficient corporate sponsorship to make the venture a success.

"Actually, the one thing we're most certain of," he said, "whether it be naming rights, founding partners, broadcast partners or people that want to buy tickets, there's not a thing we're doing as a company where the first conversation isn't football."

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