Sources tell Billboard.biz that the final three bidders on Anshutz Entertainment Group (AEG) are a group made up of Ron Burkle with Patrick Soon-Shiong and Goldman Sachs; Guggenheim Partners; and ColonyCapital and Qatar Sovereign Fund. A deal could be done as soon as the end of March.
However, a third source familiar with the process says the bidders have not partnered up and yet another round of bids is still to come, and no short-list existst yet.
AEG has been on the block since last September, with Blackstone Group directing a sale process for AEG that could top out as high as $8 billion, according to some estimates. In a recent interview with Billboard.biz, AEG CEO Tim Leiweke declined to mention who the serious bidders were, but did indicate that the field has narrowed.
“We’re getting down to the final straws here,” he said, adding, “the kind of people and companies interested are very good, and they share our vision for the future of the company. Now it’s just trying to get [owner] Mr. [Phillip] Anschutz and [potential buyers] together on the right deal.”
Leiweke did not seem concerned about the long-term future of the company no matter what shape AEG takes under new ownership. "I...understand I serve at the will and mercy of the new owners; some may want me as part of the management team, some may not, [and] I'm okay either way," he says. "The good news is we tied up all of our key management long term. Everyone is very committed here. I'm very committed to them, they're committed to me, we all have an enthusiasm for this business."
Among those "tied up" are Randy Phillips, president/CEO of AEG Live, AEG's live entertainment arm and the world's second largest promoter. AEG Live is in the early stages of a banner year, with tours by such strong box officer performers as Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, Kenny Chesney and others either on tap or already under way; and AEG's festival business with such events as Jazzfest, Coachella and StageCoach, which rank among the leaders in the most robust sector of the live music business.
"On our live side, we're going to have the best year we've ever had," says Leiweke. The concert/music festival business is usually a business that you can pretty well read your fortunes on very early. We're just very lucky that all of our relationships are out there working this year, and working hard, and doing well. For us, it's not hard to keep all of our guys motivated and focused, because we have so much going on, and all of it's good."