Philip Anschutz, who announced Thursday that he was terminating the sale of sports and entertainment giant AEG, said that the company is still interested in working out a deal to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles and that he was “optimistic” that would happen.
But he also said, in a rare, wide-ranging interview with The Times, that while AEG, the city and state have all done what was needed to build a new stadium on the LA Live campus downtown, the NFL now needs to be an active fourth party.
“We’re not going to make the NFL happen by ourselves,” the 72-year-old AEG chairman said. “The NFL is a player here. They have to decide what they want to do.
“We’re open for business to do a deal. It’s not rocket science…. We’ll do a reasonable deal, but we won’t be pushed into a deal.”
There have been no talks between Anschutz and the NFL for about eight months, he said, for about the time that the company had been up for sale. Ultimately, Anschutz said, he decided to terminate the sale process and become more involved with the operation of AEG in part because it had become a “noisy process” with inaccurate speculation about potential buyers often being publicized. Anschutz is extremely private and rarely gives interviews.
One of the reasons Anschutz gave for his optimism about securing an NFL team and building the stadium was that he is now going to be more engaged in the running of AEG. Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG since 1996 and the most visible proponent of getting football back in L.A., has left the company. Anschutz said it was a “mutual decision,” though he stressed that more attention needed to be paid to operating AEG rather than focusing on the NFL initiative.
Anschutz repeatedly said that the ultimate decision on football at the Farmers Field site at LA Live needs to be a financial one.
"If there is a profitable investment to be made, I’m up for that,” he said. “We’re very flexible.”