AUSWR
The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

U.K. tabs take aim at Anschutz
Denver billionaire's secret sessions with official drawing ink
By Joyzelle Davis
Rocky Mountain News
Thursday, July 6, 2006


Phil Anschutz has been called a lot of things.  Reclusive Denver billionaire.  Movie magnate.  Oil and railroad tycoon.

And now, "American gambling boss."

That's what the British tabloids were saying after it was discovered embattled U.K. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott met with Anschutz at least seven times -- including a July 2005 stay at Anschutz's Eagle's Nest Ranch near Greeley -- without disclosing it.

That sparked a firestorm in Britain because the Anschutz-managed Millennium Dome is in the running for a regional casino license.  Prescott, in charge of rejuvenating the area around the dome at the time of the visits, was criticized by opposition politicians for keeping the meetings secret.

Prescott's meetings with Anschutz came to light this week after a Freedom of Information Act request by political rivals.

Prescott insists he has no role in deciding the future of the dome and said he never discussed casino licenses during his visits with Anschutz.

Their discussions largely concerned the running of a large ranch and William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery, Prescott said in a letter.

Wilberforce was born in Prescott's Hull constituency, and Anschutz's film company is working on a movie about the 18th century British anti-slavery pioneer, titled Amazing Grace.

Jim Monaghan, a spokesman for Anschutz, declined to comment.

Prescott has been the subject of controversy for months, particularly after his diary secretary in May disclosed a two-year affair with the 68-year-old politician.  The week's articles about Prescott's visits with Anschutz have been accompanied by reports of other alleged affairs and a visit to an Australian casino.

The spotlight shift onto Anschutz sparked a round of "Who is Phil Anschutz?" articles in the British press, where the Qwest founder is best known for his enthusiasm for soccer and acquiring a lease to manage the Millennium Dome in 2004.

The British government spent $1 billion building the futuristic exhibit hall on the banks of the Thames River to celebrate the 21st century, and it quickly was declared a white elephant and shuttered by the end of 2000.

Anschutz Entertainment has set out an ambitious plan to redevelop the moldering site, including plans for a 23,000-seat arena slated to open next year.  South African billionaire Sol Kerzner is spearheading plans to build a Las Vegas-style casino within the dome, but Kerzner is one of several parties vying for a single casino permit that would allow the payouts of unlimited prize money.

The British press, more freewheeling than its American counterpart, had much to say about the camaraderie between Prescott, a Labour Party leader, and Anschutz, ranked by Forbes as the world's 89th richest person, with $6.4 billion.

"What is it that Philip Anschutz finds so attractive about New Labour politicians?  There can't be many right-wing Republican, anti-gay billionaires who would care to spend time with the likes of John Prescott and Tessa Jowell," pondered The Evening Standard.

Among other descriptions of Anschutz:

The Guardian described him as "a friend of George W. Bush and a donor to the Republicans" as well as "a devoted churchgoer who rarely drinks and gets up at 4:30 a.m."

The Daily Mail called Anschutz "an American gambling boss."

Prescott isn't the first prominent visitor to Anschutz's Eagle's Nest ranch.

The 32,000-acre estate reportedly includes a nine-hole golf course, trout stream, skeet shooting, cattle ranch and enough room to sleep the entire Los Angeles Kings hockey team, which Anschutz owns.

Eagle's Nest isn't to be confused with Anschutz's 300,000-acre Wyoming ranch, which he has for sale for $47.5 million.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/tech/article/0,2777,DRMN_23910_4825013,00.html