SBJ/January 21-27, 2013/Franchises

Dolphins’ Ross is in the chase to purchase AEG

Real estate company Related Cos., chaired and founded by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, is one of the approximately eight final groups bidding for Anschutz Entertainment Group, financial and other sources said.

AEG has for years planned to build an NFL stadium in Los Angeles, so it is unclear if the league would be comfortable if Related acquired AEG and built the stadium, thereby having one owner serving as the landlord of another team.
Both the NFL and Related Cos. declined to comment.

What appears out of the question, however, would be for the real estate company to own equity in a team that moved into a new downtown Los Angeles stadium. That’s the proposal AEG’s made previously, and NFL rules prevent dual ownership.

Several of the bidders have been previously identified publicly, such as Guggenheim Partners, which initially was eliminated in December and then allowed back into the process, sources said, as well as Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

The eight groups were culled from the initial bids due last month, and several of the remaining groups could and are likely to combine, sources said.

Sources said that AEG, through its financial adviser Blackstone, is in the midst of management presentations, where the bidders get more in-depth information about the assets than they received previously.

Much of AEG is a real estate play, so it is not hard to see why one of the world’s great real estate developers, Related, is interested. AEG owns arenas, hotels and property around the world, with the actually pure sports holdings, like the Los Angeles Kings and an interest in the Lakers, a relatively small percent of AEG’s holdings. The Staples Center, of course, straddles the company’s real estate and sports holdings.

Related, a source said, is working with its RSE Ventures unit, which handles Ross’ sports endeavors.

It’s by no means a certainty that the process, overseen by Blackstone, will conclude with AEG’s sale. Owner Phil Anschutz could still pull it off the market, sell AEG in pieces or negotiate individually with a buyer instead.

A spokeswoman for The Anschutz Co., the holding company that owns AEG, declined to comment other than to say the process is proceeding fine. But the sources said the process is going slower than hoped, and an original estimate of a first-quarter sale now would be tough to achieve.

AEG has proposed building a stadium in downtown Los Angeles as part of redevelopment of the convention center. Farmers Insurance agreed to name the stadium Farmers Field.

The NFL, though, prefers its teams to control the stadiums they play in, which was not part of the AEG plan, and the league is believed to be considering several sites in the region. Another site is one championed by developer Ed Roski in the City of Industry, 20 miles outside of Los Angeles, and the league has long thought to want a stadium at Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers, owned by Guggenheim, play there.

NFL teams have several more weeks to notify the league if they wish to relocate to Los Angeles for the 2013 season, a development that is highly unlikely to occur, insiders agree.
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