Anschutz forges glittering L.A. empire
By Tom McGhee, Staff Writer
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Denver investor Philip Anschutz's home remains in Denver, and
the neon blue sign identifying Qwest, the company he founded,
still dominates the skyline.
But much of the tycoon's empire is now in Los Angeles.
Anschutz has cobbled together an entertainment conglomerate that
includes sports teams, venues, concert promotion, the world's
largest theater chain, and movie production companies.
Anschutz's footprint in Tinseltown has been growing since the
Last year, the Los Angeles Times ranked him the sixth most
powerful person in Southern California, right behind the leader
of 5 million Roman Catholics, Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the
Los Angeles Archdiocese.
"Southern California has more than its share of absentee
landlords. Few, however, have had as much impact as Anschutz,"
the newspaper said.
His $400 million Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers
and Clippers, is helping to revive the city's downtown. And
through his sports and entertainment company, AEG Worldwide, he
is developing a $2 billion entertainment and sports district
He developed and owns the $150 million Home Depot Center in
nearby Carson City, where his Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team
plays; has a share in the Lakers; and owns the L.A. Kings
hockey team and two other major league soccer teams.
Anschutz has long been a pioneer for American professional
soccer. AEG recently signed glam British soccer star David
Beckham to a five-year deal with the Galaxy, adding another
high-profile celebrity to the city's tax rolls.
Anschutz also built a 130-mile pipeline that transports oil from
the San Joaquin Valley to refineries and terminal facilities in
the Los Angeles Basin.
"He has made a huge investment in this community in
infrastructure, in entertainment and in sports, and those three
drive our economy," said L.A. developer Steve Soboroff, a former
adviser to ex-Mayor Richard Riordan, who worked with Anschutz on
the Staples Center and other projects.
Anschutz, who made his fortune in oil, gas, telecommunications,
real estate and other ventures, runs his global enterprise from
an office tower on 17th Street in Denver. He is a substantial
benefactor to Colorado charities. His AEG Live opened a Denver
office last year, operates the Ogden and Bluebird theaters and
books venues in Denver and elsewhere. His in-theater
advertising company, National CineMedia, is based in Centennial.
"Investments are made where opportunities exist that fit one's
business plans or philosophy," said Anschutz spokesman Jim
Anschutz has cut his stake in two high-profile Denver companies,
selling off virtually all his Qwest holdings and a substantial
share in Forest Oil. And in 2003, he sold the rights to the
Colorado Rapids to Stan Kroenke, owner of the Colorado Avalanche
and Denver Nuggets.
Purchased L.A. Kings in 1995
Anschutz first made a splash in Southern California's sporting
world when he and real-estate investor Ed Roski Jr. purchased
the bankrupt L.A. Kings hockey team in 1995.
It wasn't long before he revived an idea that had fallen flat in
Denver in 1987, when he was competing to develop a convention
center on railroad land he owned in the Central Platte Valley.
That proposal included an entertainment district with a $20
million amusement park, a hotel and other improvements.
"Am I crazy?" he said in pitching the 1987 plan. "My opponents
say I am, but I disagree. I see here a tremendous opportunity
for a fantastic place waiting to happen."
He lost that bid, but 10 years later he got approval to build
the Staples Center in Los Angeles' moribund downtown. The deal
with the city gave him control of 30 acres near the Staples site
where AEG is building LA Live, an entertainment district.
The Staples Center, which draws nearly 4 million customers a
year, contributed to a 30 percent increase in the number of
visitors to downtown L.A. between 2003 and 2005, according to a
study by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
"There is no question that Staples was transformative. I look
at downtown and I refer to it as BSC and ASC -- Before Staples
Center and After Staples Center," said Carol Schatz, president
of the Los Angeles Downtown Center Business Improvement
LA Live will include theaters, restaurants, retail, commercial
and residential space, and a convention-center hotel that will
be part Marriott, part Ritz Carlton and have condominiums on the
"It is really going to anchor the southern portion of the
downtown area, which used to be covered with parking lots," said
Nancy Sidhu, senior economist at the Los Angeles County Economic
Hotel tax rebates fuel anger
The 54-story hotel will put the city's downtown convention
center in the running for business that now goes elsewhere, said
Jack Kyser, chief economist at the development corporation.
But the up-to-$290 million in hotel tax rebates that the Los
Angeles City Council approved for the property last year drew
the ire of many Angelenos.
Joel Kotkin, author of "The City: A Global History," was one of
those who opposed the tax breaks.
"The whole LA Live is an absurdity for a city like LA that has a
huge, and unsubsidized, entertainment industry. Stuff like ESPN
Zone and other packaged entertainment is not necessary for a
city like ours. If you are bored in L.A., get another life," he
said in an e-mail response to a query.
AEG owns, operates or acts as booking agent for venues across
the country and in Europe.
While Anschutz wields the power, "he is not visible operating
the levers" in L.A., Kyser said. The public face of privately
held AEG is Timothy J. Leiweke.
Anschutz also owns Regal Entertainment, the world's largest
movie chain, a holding that gives him clout in in Hollywood,
said Dan Glickman, chief executive of the Motion Picture
Association of America, a trade organization of major American
"He is a very big force within the theater-owners organization,
and they have a very powerful relationship with the studios and
other filmmakers because that is where the product is
distributed," Glickman said.
Launched film company in 2000
In 2000, Anschutz, a conservative Christian, branched into film,
forming production company Crusader Entertainment, later renamed
Bristol Bay Productions. The following year he launched Walden
Media. Both companies specialize in family fare, with movies
such as "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," based on a
children's book by Oxford scholar and Christian writer C.S.
Lewis, and "Around the World in 80 Days."
"Phil is very much involved in the whole family-format film
movement, so we have talked a lot about the need to make more
family entertainment," Glickman said.
Anschutz is a force to be reckoned with in a city where the
entertainment industry rules, said Schatz. "He leaves a huge
imprint in the whole entertainment arena. L.A. is the
entertainment capital of the world; if you are big in L.A., you
are big in the world," said Schatz.
Staff writer Tom McGhee can be reached at 303-954-1671 or