In his role as president/CEO of AEG, Leiweke greenlighted some of the most successful live music projects of the past decade, including the acquisition of Concerts West and Coachella producer Goldenvoice; the partnership with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival; the creation of AEG Live; the partnership with the Messina Group, which oversees tours by Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and others; a fruitful expansion into Las Vegas that includes the Colosseum at Caesars Palace; and a longstanding and productive touring relationship with Bon Jovi.
But in the wake of Leiweke’s surprise departure from AEG announced Thursday, where might he land next?
Most would agree Leiweke’s specific skill set tilts toward venue development and professional sports franchises. He’s been a force in Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Assn., and the National Hockey League, and, with his key role in the development of Farmers Field, now the National Football League. In addition to his role with franchises the Lakers (34% ownership by AEG), Kings and Galaxy (both wholly owed by AEG) in Los Angeles, AEG also owns the MLS Houston Dynamo. In short, Leiweke would be a likely candidate as an owner, GM, or developer of any pro sports teams or group of teams, and will probably find more than a few opportunities in this sector. Few executives could equal Leiweke’s track record in professional sports over the past decade-plus, albeit few have had the resources of Phillip Anschutz behind them.
Leiweke’s influence is not limited to these shores. On his watch, AEG has enjoyed fruitful expansion into the UK (the O2 in London , Switzerland (the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm), Germany (the O2 World in Berlin), Turkey (Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul), Australia (Allphones Arena in Sydney and Brisbane Entertainment Center), and Asia (the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and the Mastercard Center in Beijiing). AEG assets also include the Berlin Eisbaren, Germany’s championship hockey team; the Amgen Tour of California cycling race, and the Zazzle Bay to Breakers foot race.
As the names of these venues suggest, naming rights deals have been an area of success for Leiweke and his team, even in a down market. AEG Global Partnerships, a subsidiary responsible for worldwide sales and servicing of sponsorships, naming rights and other strategic partnerships, and AEG Merchandising, a multi-faceted merchandising company, are also core business units of AEG developed by Leiweke. Additionally, his fingerprints are also all over the growth of axs, AEG’s ticketing division created in partnership with Outbox and Cirque du Soleil.
Leiweke’s contact list would be second to none in sports and entertainment. Not only is he a skilled negotiator, Leiweke’s strategy in building AEG was, with few exceptions, to acquire executive talent and develop projects from the ground up rather than acquire existing properties and businesss. A prime example of Leiweke’s vision would be L.A. Live, a four-million square-foot downtown Los Angeles sports, residential and entertainment district featuring the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE and Club Nokia; a 54-story, 1001-room convention headquarters destination anchored by the Ritz-Carlton & JW Marriott Hotel at L.A., the Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live and Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant WP 24, along with entertainment, restaurant and office space. Leiweke took L.A. Live from the status of a press release that many viewed as a pipe dream to what has become a model for sports and entertainment developments anchored by an arena footprint, in this case the massive Staples Center.
In summation, Leiweke is an executive of rare scope. AEG is a private company, so the details of Leiweke’s severance and non-competitive edicts may never be made public. But he is known to be a driven, passionate leader and it is highly doubtful that he will stand on the sidelines for long.