Anschutz Entertainment Group owner Phillip Anschutz has taken the company off of the market and president/CEO Tim Leiweke will leave the company, according to a statement released today. Leiweke will be replaced in his roles by CFO Dan Beckerman. Anschutz will take on a more active role in the company.
“From the very beginning of the sales process, we have made it clear to our employees and partners throughout the world that unless the right buyer came forward with a transaction on acceptable terms we would not sell the company,” Anschutz said in the statement.
Leiweke is leaving by mutual consent, the statement continued. “We appreciate the role Tim has played in the development of AEG, and thank him for the many contributions he has made to the company,” Anschutz said.
Ted Fikre, who joined the Company in 1997, will become Vice Chairman of the Company and continue as AEG’s Chief Legal and Development Officer, as well as assume responsibility for AEG’s Governmental and Media Relations, the statement continues. Jay Marciano, currently President and Chief Executive Officer of AEG Europe, will relocate from London to Los Angeles to assume the role of Chief Operating Officer. Todd Goldstein, who has been with the Company since 2001, recently was elevated to Chief Revenue Officer and will continue in that role. Steven Cohen, Executive Vice President of the Anschutz Company, will serve as AEG’s Chief Strategic Officer while retaining his role at AEG’s parent company. Beckerman, Fikre, Marciano, Goldstein and Cohen, together with Anschutz, will constitute AEG’s Office of the Chairman.
“From the very beginning of the sales process, we have made it clear to our employees and partners throughout the world that unless the right buyer came forward with a transaction on acceptable terms we would not sell the Company” said Anschutz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Anschutz Company. “From the very first days of AEG, my vision has been to tie together world class real estate development structured around entertainment venues with premium sports and live entertainment content. In recent years we have developed related businesses to further promote and enhance the performance of AEG’s facilities for the benefit of our partners, including our sponsors, artists, consumers and the communities in which we operate. The Company’s operations will continue to be run by AEG’s experienced senior executive team, most of whom have been with AEG for over a decade. We will continue to set the standards in the industries in which AEG operates, bringing our unique vision and development model to entertainment locations throughout the world.”
“Phil’s active reengagement in the operations of the Company has brought a renewed spirit and passion to the management team’s focus on AEG’s next steps” Beckerman said in the statement. “The Company has a number of interesting business opportunities, and the expertise of the management team and our 26,000 employees around the world will allow us to select those prospects that best enhance the Company’s performance. Priority projects going forward include the development of Farmers Field adjacent to our L.A. Live campus and the pursuit of our plan to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles, our recently announced initiative to collaborate with MGM to build a new arena in Las Vegas, the acquisition of ownership stakes and the associated refurbishment of several major global arenas in Europe and our ongoing investment in AXS.com, our ticketing and e-commerce platform, as we expand its capabilities for the benefit of our venues, partners, performers and consumer end-users.”
A source close to the situation told Billboard that bidders did not reach the desired number of approximately $8 billion, although a group headed by the Qatar Sovereign Fund with Colony Capital came closest at $6 billion, according to a source.
Sources told Billboard in late January that the final three bidders on AEG were a group made up of Ron Burkle with Patrick Soon-Shiong and Goldman Sachs; Guggenheim Partners; and Colony Capital and Qatar Sovereign Fund, and that a deal could be done as soon as the end of March.
But another source at that time also familiar with the process said discounted that information and said the bidders had not partnered up at that point.
AEG has been on the block since September, with Blackstone Group directing a sale process that Billboard reported could be high as $8 billion. In a January interview with Billboard.biz, 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.”
In a comment that now seems prescient, Leiweke said, “It will all work out one way or another, and if it’s not meant to be, I’m fairly certain I will be able to keep myself busy.”
The “no sale” leaves intact the world’s biggest sports/entertainment/venue firm, and presumably its leadership in Leiweke, who recently re-upped key staff including 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 box office leaders like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, Kenny Chesney and others either on tap or already under way — and its 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.