Former AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke is back in Los Angeles and plotting his next big move in the live events industry.
The 55-year-old executive, who made his mark on the downtown skyline with projects such as Staples Center and L.A. Live, spent the last two and a half years leading Toronto-based Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. He was the public face of AEG during his 17-year career there before being ousted in a 2013 corporate shake-up.
Now he has returned to the Southland, where he's joined forces with a well-connected ally, longtime music industry power-player Irving Azoff.
The two have launched an L.A.-based entertainment advisory, development and investment company — dubbed the Oak View Group — in a bid to help venues around the country to make more money from live events.
"I think [Leiweke] was always destined to come back to L.A.," Azoff, 67, said in an interview. "I chased him for a long time."
Leiweke will serve as the new company's chief executive, while Azoff will join its board of directors. Azoff MSG Entertainment, a joint venture between Azoff's management firm and the Madison Square Garden Co., is investing in Oak View. Leiweke is putting his own money into the Oak View Group. The partners declined to disclose additional financial details.
Oak View could benefit from the combined talents of the two executives. Leiweke has deep connections in the sports industry and has spearheaded major development projects. Meanwhile, Azoff brings a big music industry Rolodex to the table, having managed top-tier artists such as the Eagles and Christina Aguilera. Azoff was also instrumental in a $100-million rejuvenation of the Forum in Inglewood.
"You have people with considerable power and access to capital, so there are a number of things they could potentially do," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry publication Pollstar.
The partnership could put Leiweke in competition with his former boss, AEG founder Philip Anschutz. The Forum, already an Oak View client, competes directly with AEG's Staples Center for top musical acts.
A key part of the new venture's mission is to help sports arenas and big music venues generate more revenue by signing on major sponsors and attracting popular bands and artists. Though short on specifics, Leiweke said he and Azoff are focused on finding new revenue streams for venues, with an emphasis on helping live music catch up to sports as a money-maker.
U.S. annual live music revenue is expected to surpass $11 billion by 2019, according to a research report by consulting firm PwC.
Oak View's client roster includes the Madison Square Garden in New York and Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
"We're going to be a positive influence on the disruption of the business," Leiweke told The Times. "It's been a while since the business has been shaken up, and I think we have a chance to do that."
Azoff and Leiweke have worked together since the latter's early days at AEG. Now they are trying to come up with new business models for venues as the live music industry grows. That could mean developing new, bustling entertainment districts around venues, in addition to sponsors.
The company, located in the Westwood Center office building, has about a dozen employees, which Leiweke expects will double shortly. It is also developing a venture capital arm and a consulting unit for venues, sports teams and other entertainment companies.
Oak View will, for example, advise soccer star David Beckham's bid to build a Major League Soccer stadium in Miami, the company said.
Leiweke said the company's announcement has attracted interest from multiple potential venue clients. Ten arenas have "verbally committed" or expressed interest in joining up, he said. A couple of projects with Beverly Hills-based concert giant Live Nation are in the works.
He joined Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in 2013 after he was ousted as CEO of AEG, a position he'd held since 1996. His departure surprised civic leaders, political figures and local business circles. He was seen as the force behind the plan to build an NFL stadium in downtown L.A.
AEG's Anschutz told The Times in 2013 that he decided to become actively "reengaged" in managing the company after he was unable to find a buyer for it. He said Leiweke had chosen to leave when the sale didn't occur and plans for the stadium fell through.
At MLSE, Leiweke oversaw sports franchises including the NHL's Maple Leafs and the NBA's Raptors, venues including Air Canada Centre, and three TV channels. MLSE last month named Michael Friisdahl as its new president and chief executive. Leiweke said in summer 2014 that he would leave the company for new opportunities in sports and entertainment.
There had been some speculation about Leiweke's next move, especially after he earlier this year paid $5.815 million for a Brentwood home sold by golfer Fred Couples.
"To have the opportunity to build a company in your hometown is very special to me," Leiweke said.