AEG founder Philip Anschutz said in an exclusive interview with the Los Angeles Times that he pulled his sports and entertainment conglomerate off the market after having a change of heart and deciding to become actively "reengaged" in managing the company.
Anschutz wouldn't directly address how many bids he received for AEG or what prices were offered. But he hinted strongly that the bids fell short of the $8 billion to $10 billion that he reportedly was seeking.
"We were very clear from the start," Anschutz said in an hourlong interview in a conference room high atop L.A. Live. "Unless there was the right buyer, the right set of terms and the right price, we might not sell."
Anschutz complained that the closely watched sales process, which the company announced to great fanfare in September, had become a distraction that interfered with day-to-day operations.
"This became a very noisy process," he said. "Lots of people. Lots of talking heads. Lots of unnamed experts and lots of opinions. Many of them were wrong, but that didn't seem to dampen their enthusiasm. So that was a contributing factor. It just got too noisy. I didn't like the process."
As for the departure of Tim Leiweke, AEG's highly regarded president and chief executive, Anschutz indicated that the executive had chosen to leave when the sale didn't occur.
"I think he made his decision based on the fact that I had terminated the process for the sale," Anschutz said. "By the way, I might add, he's had a pretty good turn here."
The Anschutz Corp. caught Los Angeles business and civic leaders flat-footed Thursday by announcing that it had decided not sell its AEG subsidiary.
AEG is a sprawling entity that owns and manages a variety of sports and entertainment properties, including the L.A. Live complex, the L.A. Galaxy professional soccer team and a worldwide concert-promotion business.
The company also owns a minority stake in the Lakers and has worked closely with Los Angeles city officials to bring a professional football team to L.A.
Among potential bidders said to be interested in AEG were Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and powerhouse Santa Monica investment firm Colony Capital. Guggenheim Partners, which led the consortium that bought the Los Angeles Dodgers, also was said to be interested.
Colony Capital and Guggenheim refused to comment. Soon-Shiong couldn't be reached for comment.
It's uncommon for a 72-year-old, as Anschutz is, to dive aggressively into active management of a company. However, Anschutz is known as particularly hard-charging.
Despite walking with a cane after recent back surgery, Anschutz seemed fit in a tailored blue pin-striped suit with a cuff-linked shirt and white pocket square.
"All I have ever done in my life is work," he said. "I'm kind of excited about reengaging."