Billionaire Philip Anschutz announced Tuesday that he was retiring from the boards of three companies in which he is the largest shareholder: Union Pacific Corp., Regal Entertainment Group and Qwest Communications International Inc.
Anschutz -- an influential developer in downtown Los Angeles and an increasingly active player in entertainment -- is stepping aside at a time when the pressures and demands on directors of public corporations have intensified after a wave of accounting scandals. Qwest itself, the Denver-based telecom company Anschutz founded, was among the firms targeted in federal probes, though he was not implicated in any wrongdoing.
Tuesday’s move “will allow Mr. Anschutz to devote more time and attention to his privately held investments -- something he has desired to do for the past several years,” Anschutz spokesman Jim Monaghan said in a statement.
Anschutz, 66, will have no trouble keeping busy.
Ranked by Forbes magazine as the 28th-richest American, with a net worth of $7.2 billion, Anschutz has investments in about 100 businesses. He earned his fortune in the oil and gas industry and remains active in energy exploration.
His Anschutz Entertainment Group owns Staples Center, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team and nearly 30% of the Lakers basketball team. The company is spending more than $1 billion to construct a convention center hotel and commercial project around Staples and $1 billion to build an entertainment district in London.
Anschutz’s Clarity Media Group owns the San Francisco Examiner and the Washington Examiner and will begin publishing the Baltimore Examiner in April. The company owns the rights to the Examiner name in more than 60 cities, including Los Angeles.
His motion picture company made “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which has collected nearly $300 million in U.S. boxoffice receipts.
“Narnia” helped Regal Entertainment recover from a midyear box-office slump by boosting the company’s fourth-quarter profit 43%. Through a series of acquisitions, Anschutz built the Knoxville, Tenn., company into the nation’s largest operator of movie theaters.
The longtime Denver resident fiercely guards his privacy. He rarely grants on-the-record media interviews and seldom allows himself to be photographed. The last time Anschutz gave a news conference was more than a decade ago during a failed bid to build a convention center in downtown Denver.
He founded Qwest on a plan to build a nationwide fiber optic network for Internet communications along the Southern Pacific Railroad lines, which he acquired in 1988. But the company’s stock crashed after the number of fiber optic lines outpaced customer demand.
Anschutz cashed in about $2 billion, or about 20%, of his Qwest holdings. The SEC investigated the timing and circumstances of the 2001 stock sales but found no wrongdoing. Seven former Qwest executives have been charged since 2003 in a federal probe.
Anschutz joined the board of Omaha-based Union Pacific, the nation’s largest railroad, in 1996, when it bought Southern Pacific.
He “was an active, engaged director whom I valued deeply as a sounding board for advice on many of the issues Union Pacific has faced over the years,” Union Pacific Chairman Dick Davidson said in a statement. “We will miss his insight, his enthusiasm and his judgment.”
Times researcher Maloy Moore contributed to this report.