There may have been a temblor in SoCal earlier this week, but today’s news coming out of LA is truly earth shattering. Sports and entertainment conglomerate AEG is having its auction halted. An executive shakeup has also occurred, with longtime CEO Tim Leiweke leaving. Owner Phil Anschutz will be “more engaged” in the company, and COO/CFO Dan Beckerman will now take the reins over Leiweke.
With Leiweke leaving, there is no longer a champion for Farmers Field. Beckerman may have been key to expanding the AEG empire to what it is today, but he’s still a bean counter at heart, not a vision guy. Leiweke was the visible champion for many projects, from Staples Center to MLS (in its early years) to Farmer Field. Unless Anschutz gains a newfound desire finish the job of bringing one or more NFL teams to LA, and Beckerman can sign off on the profit-related compromises that may be required to make it happen, Farmers Field is dead.
Beckerman’s first comments after today’s news spun it as if Farmers Field remains a major priority:
“The Company has a number of interesting business opportunities, and the expertise of the management team and our 26,000 employees around the world will allow us to select those prospects that best enhance the Company’s performance. Priority projects going forward include the development of Farmers Field adjacent to our L.A. Live campus and the pursuit of our plan to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles…”
AEG is only positioning in this manner because it’s potentially more valuable with Farmers Field in the portfolio, even if it’s only a fantasy at the moment. If one of the bidders were to come up with the $10+ billion offer to buy AEG, Anschutz would take it in a heartbeat. That’s not what he’s getting offered, so that’s why the company is being pulled off the table.
What does this mean for AEG’s operations at the Coliseum? It’s all status quo for now. When Oakland/Alameda County get around to settling on the scope of Coliseum City, then things could get interesting.