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8 Best Parts of the New Yorker's Downtown NFL Stadium Story, In Which Everyone Comes Off Looking Terrible

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This week's New Yorker has a lengthy article (sub. req.) about the two very different men who lead the Anschutz Entertainment Group (they're responsible for LA Live), the power they wield in Los Angeles, and their quest to build an NFL stadium Downtown. CEO Tim Leiweke is painted as a showman who works personal relationships to get his way (He talks about luring an NFL team as being about "Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger!" as in NFL commissioner Goodell). Owner Philip Anschutz is shown as an ultra-conservative who stays out of the spotlight but has his hands in lots of pies (Besides AEG, he has a film company and several newspapers, part-owns the Lakers and majority-owns the Kings, is involved in conservative political causes, and funds those Foundation for a Better Life billboards with the "Pass It On." slogan.). They both come off looking like opportunists who will take a mile even if you don't give them the inch to start. But Los Angeles doesn't look so hot either in the story of the NFL stadium development (which includes 41 billboards, a financing deal that lets AEG pay down bonds with money it would otherwise pay to the city in taxes, and an initial sign-off from the city despite lots of mystery about the specifics). The New Yorker says that "it is hard not to see the straitened city as a supplicant, and A.E.G. as a self-described benefactor." And still, NFL's executive vice president of business ventures says that neither AEG, nor the developer behind the proposed Industry stadium, have put together a good enough deal to attract a football team. The whole article's behind a paywall, but we plucked out some of our favorite quotes:

-- When he visits Los Angeles, [Philip Anschutz] is accompanied by no chauffeur, personal assistant, or bodyguard. He does not use a cell phone, or e-mail, and once showed up so late to an event at one of his own arenas that Leiweke called the police. Anschutz had turned back because he'd forgotten his tickets at the hotel and was worried he wouldn't be let in.

-- "Carla!" [Tim Leiweke] called out to his secretary. "How long is the line outside Starbucks?" He uses the length of the line to gauge how busy his [LA Live] "campus" is.

-- [Anschutz] pursued collecting Western art with a similar intensity, making his first major acquisitions in 1972, by trading oil leases for paintings. Steve Rose, who owned the Biltmore Galleries in Los Angeles, said, "I showed Phil photographs of thirty or forty paintings--there were a lot of Russells, and Remingtons, some Taos paintings--and he said, 'I'll take them all.' He picked out the leases for me, and I tell Phil when I see him that I might be the only guy that ever got the best of him on a deal! I cash big checks every month."

-- Anschutz has also sued the Internal Revenue Service at least seven times since 1987. Most recently, in 2010, a U.S. Tax Court judge sided with the I.R.S. Anschutz's company appealed that decision, but in late December, a federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Anschutz was required to pay the government more than seventeen million dollars in taxes, and his company was liable for at least seventy-seven million dollars.

-- A.E.G.'s resume proves [the Downtown NFL stadium] can be done. [Leiweke says] "We've built more arenas and stadiums than anyone in the world, ever--including the Romans!"

-- "Ray," a 2004 biopic about the musician Ray Charles, was another [film produced by Anschutz's company]. "Phil was very stringent about profanity--absolutely none. Even the word 'shit' was taboo," the film's director, Taylor Hackford, recalled. "He said, 'For centuries, artists have come up with ways to express themselves without using the word "fuck," so you should use your ingenuity to make a mature film without profanity'."

-- Anschutz recounted how an oil well he was drilling in Wyoming in 1967 had exploded in flames, threatening to ruin him financially. He wanted to hire the legendary firefighter Red Adair but did not have the money. He quickly offered to sell Universal Studios the rights to film the conflagration--it was shooting "Hellfighters," with John Wayne playing Adair. Anschutz receieved a hundred thousand dollars from Universal, and paid Adair to come fight the blaze.

-- "I get along well with Democrats, I get along equally well with Republicans," he said, adding that he has a good relationship with House Speaker John Boehner. (They share a propensity for tearing up during speeches.)
· THE MAN WHO OWNS L.A. [New Yorker, sub. req.]
· Farmers Field Archives [Curbed LA]


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