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Who’s funding LA’s Olympics bid?

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The bid is privately funded, but California taxpayers could be on the hook for cost overruns

Aerial view of UCLA
Donors include a list of recognizable names like Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and entertainment executive David Geffen

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in June, 2017 and has been updated with the most recent information.

LA 2024, Los Angeles’s Olympic bid committee, filed an annual tax return last week revealing the organization’s largest donors, including many recognizable figures in the local sports and entertainment landscape.

The filing comes hot on the heels of a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee’s executive committee all but assuring that Los Angeles will host the Olympic games in the next 11 years.

As what once appeared to be something of a long shot bid for the games looks increasingly likely to succeed (whether the city hosts in 2024 or 2028), greater attention has been paid to the privately funded bid itself.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, bid chair Casey Wasserman received no compensation for his work, though one of his companies, 247 Group, was paid $1 million for a social media campaign (he reportedly recused himself from discussions related to the hiring of the firm). Wasserman is also the bid’s biggest donor, having contributed $3 million to the organization. (Disclosure: Wasserman is also on the board of directors for Vox Media, Curbed's parent company.)

According to LA 2024, the organization has raised more than $50 million from its long list of board members, who include former Olympians, entertainment executives, developers, and even local celebrities.

The tax filing only covers the period from August 1, 2015 to July 31, 2016, so its listed contributions cover only a little over $32.6 million of the total money raised by the organization. The list of donors includes global media players such as Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, the LA Clippers, and the charitable foundation of entertainment executive David Geffen.

In total, 30 donors gave at least $1 million to the bid. A handful of contributors could potentially profit from an LA Olympics, including ticket seller and event promoter Live Nation and Universal City Studios—a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, which owns broadcast rights for the games through 2032.

Other donors, including Detroit Pistons owner Thomas Gores, shopping mall developer Westfield, and El Monte’s Longo Toyota dealership, have no obvious connection to the games.

Though the city’s bid is privately funded, California taxpayers could be responsible for up to $250 million of any cost overruns incurred by the games, according to a report from the state’s Legislative Analyst. To ensure residents don’t get stuck with the bill, bid organizers are setting aside a contingency fund for the same amount that can only be used to cover budget shortfalls.

Update: LA 2024 spokesperson Jeff Millman notes that the bid committee has not decided on a ticket vendor for the games and has no business relationship with Live Nation.