AEG agreement step closer to bringing NFL team to Los Angeles

Andrew Clark

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Illustration by Gabriel Ivan Orendain-Necochea

The City Council unanimously voted to approve the building of Farmers Field last Friday, and on Wednesday, a formal agreement was reached between the city and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to begin breaking ground in March 2013, barring any legal challenges.

“We are a giant step closer to bringing NFL football back to Los Angeles,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told ESPN.

Councilwoman Jan Perry highlighted the economic growth that awaits downtown L.A. when the construction of Farmers Field and the subsequent convention center expansion get underway.

“By signing this agreement, we are demonstrating our firm commitment to investing in our local economy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and developing our convention center into a leading destination while protecting the taxpayer,” Perry said in a press release.  “We are also sending a clear signal to the NFL that Los Angeles is ready and eagerly awaiting the return of football.”

The project is expected to cost $1.5 billion.  The Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition, a group of local activists, want AEG to pay $60 million for low-income housing in the neighborhood surrounding the complex at 11th and Figueroa Street.

The agreement comes at a time when AEG is in the midst of selling itself and its assets, many of them in L.A.

The Los Angeles Kings hockey team, the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer club, Staples Center, a future NFL stadium and convention center expansion, along with the L.A. Live entertainment district are owned by AEG, who has put itself up for sale for unknown reasons.

The company, owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, is expected to net a sale of more than $7 billion.  The company CEO, Tim Leiweke, told the Los Angeles Times he is staying with the company for at least another five years, whoever the new owner is.

“I want to get Farmers Field built. That is a legacy project,” Leiweke said.  “I love the city; I love L.A. Live; I love what we’ve done here. We’re going to get it done, and I’m not going anywhere.”

When he bought the Kings in 1995, the franchise was just moving past the Gretzky era and started a rebuilding phase that included moving into Staples Center in 1999 and ended with the franchise’s first Stanley Cup this summer.  The LA Galaxy won the MLS cup in 2011, play in the state-of-the-art Home Depot Center and have one of soccer’s iconic players in David Beckham.

In a recent article on ESPNLA, investment company and Dodger owner Guggenheim Partners and Los Angeles businessman Patrick Soon-Shiong, often cited as the richest man in L.A., were named as having looked at a potential purchase of AEG.  Soon-Shiong owns a minority stake in the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.  Guggenheim Partners bought the Dodgers in April for $2.15 billion and have $160 billion in assets.

Leiweke told the Times he thought Soon-Shiong and Guggenheim would be involved as investors.

“I think Patrick is going to be one,” Leiweke said.  “There’s a half-dozen people that Mr. Anschutz has heard from already. There are going to be many people that look at it with a view to do it.”

Leiweke said to the Times that there had not been recent discussions with Dean Spanos, the chairman of the San Diego Chargers, one of the teams most-rumored to come to Los Angeles.