After six months of deal talks, Phil Anschutz wasn't satisfied with bidders' offers, yet Leiweke's surprise exit raises new questions.
With Anschutz Entertainment Group off the block and the subsequent resignation of the sports and entertainment firm's architect in Tim Leiweke, the question now moves from "What's it worth?" to "What's next?"
Bidders didn't reach owner Philip Anschutz's magic number of around $8 billion, although a group headed by the Qatar Sovereign Fund with Colony Capital came closest at $6 billion, according to a source, who also said that Billboard parent Guggenheim Partners' bid came in at around $5 billion.
But the real shocker here is the exit of Leiweke, No. 8 on this year's Billboard Power 100 list and widely recognized as the visionary behind the AEG model of combining real estate in theaters, arenas and stadiums with revenue-producing content in sports teams and live events, with added fringe businesses like ticketing, media deals, merchandising and sponsorships. Few pictured AEG's future without Leiweke.
But that future starts now. AEG says Anschutz, 73, as chairman of AEG, will resume a more active role in the company but it's likely much of that job will fall to Dan Beckerman, a 15-year AEG vet who was CFO/COO and now assumes the position of president/CEO of AEG.
The promotion of Jay Marciano to COO is less surprising. The former Madison Square Garden Entertainment president, who has served as president/CEO of AEG Europe for almost two years, seems a savvy move, given Marciano's proven skills in the facilities, sports and talent/touring sectors.
One wild card is Randy Phillips, who just re-upped as president of AEG Live, AEG's touring/promotion division. That division has performed well and is on a record pace this year. Leiweke was an ardent supporter of Phillips, and several sources expect Phillips to continue at the helm of AEG Live, particularly in light of the record year.
So why couldn't AEG sell at the asking price? Through conversations with live entertainment stakeholders, some of them familiar with the AEG negotiations, it seems some saw different value in different sectors of AEG's business.
Had they chosen to break AEG up, which apparently was never on the table, the story would likely be different. Some investors were most interested in AEG Live, which is in its best year with tours by Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and others. But touring is cyclical based on who's touring and tricky pricing, as opposed to the more consistent hard value of top-shelf arenas and the sports tenants that inhabit them.
Investors value steady revenue, which sports franchises churn in TV rights and season-ticket sales, and venues, specifically arenas, can provide through concessions, parking, suites, sponsorships, various fees and now AEG's own ticketing company, axs.
Live Nation Entertainment, the world's largest promoter, venue operator and ticketing company in Ticketmaster, is trading at just $2.3 billion of 4.5 times 2013 EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). But the relatively smaller Madison Square Garden Co., which holds sports assets like the NBA's New York Knicks, is trading at $4.3 billion-a whopping 14 times 2013 EBITDA.
In the end, the motivation for selling AEG in the first place probably hasn't disappeared. While the process is grueling for all parties, it would be worth undertaking again even a year from now as AEG projects like axs, bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles and the collaboration with MGM to build a new arena in Las Vegas all come to bear.