Throughout AEG’s efforts to secure city approval for its proposed downtown football stadium, the presence of CEO Tim Leiweke has been regarded as an asset — he’s forged strong relationships with elected officials and organized labor, and those connections have helped overcome some of the reservations local leaders have regarding Phil Anschutz, the conservative Denver billionaire who sits atop AEG’s parent company. On Thursday, with Leiweke and the company parting ways, supporters tried to argue that this change helps the stadium deal too, because Leiweke’s leaving is part of AEG’s decision to take the company off the market, thus ending some of the uncertainty around its possible sale.
It’s not the first time that supporters of the stadium have tried to turn an unexpected development into a positive one. Before AEG was put up for sale, its executives argued that it was the perfect company to build the new stadium: It had already built Staples Center and L.A. Live, and Leiweke and his deputies understood the vagaries of Los Angeles politics. When the proposed sale of the company was unveiled to City Council members just before they were asked to approve the stadium, Leiweke assured them that the sale would be good for the stadium because Anschutz wasn’t really taken with the idea of football the way a new owner might be. Now, with the company again under Anschutz — and more firmly than ever, according to its announcement — AEG argues yet again that the stadium is a priority. Councilwoman Jan Perry said taking the company off the market would bring “stability and certainty” to the negotiations.
It’s a tribute to the creative talents of AEG and its supporters that they can argue that every turn of the wheel brings the stadium closer, but it’s growing tiresome and the company’s credibility is wearing thin. AEG’s turmoil has unsettled even its supporters, and this latest upheaval — along with its attendant, unanswered questions — undermines that confidence again.
If AEG is still intent on building a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, this would be a good moment for the City Council to summon the company’s top executives to a public meeting and question them about their plans and commitments. The stadium remains a promising project, with the potential to bring jobs and economic development, as well as the opportunity for the city to revitalize the Convention Center. It would be reassuring to know that AEG can be trusted to carry it out.