Roger Goodell Sees Anschutz' Reengagement As "Positive" For NFL In L.A.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said it is a "positive" that AEG Chair Phil Anschutz is reengaging with the company following the departure of President & CEO Tim Leiweke last week, according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. Anschutz took AEG off the market, and Goodell said "because of the sales process, that's probably crippled any discussions for several months" of bringing an NFL team to L.A. Goodell: "But we look forward to reengaging with them and see if we can get something done." Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said that he recently "toured the downtown site and is encouraged about the possibilities in L.A." Kraft: "It's a great site, right in the heart of everything, but it's not the only site." Goodell said, "We do think it is a viable site. There are several viable sites in Los Angeles. All of them are on the table for us. We want to get back to Los Angeles, but we are going to look at every alternative we have to do that successfully" (L.A. TIMES, 3/19). Goodell said Anschutz' decision not to sell AEG is a "positive" development for the NFL's return (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/19).
INSIDE THE DEAL: In L.A., Michael Hiltzik wrote of Anschutz, "The thought that the terminally arrogant NFL has finally met its match in a negotiating adversary is comforting, up to a point." Anschutz has "let it be known that he's not certain that pro football would be an unalloyed plus for his enterprise." Yet the "downside of any talks between Anschutz and the NFL is that there's no 'given' that they won't result in Los Angeles taxpayers getting stuck with a big bill." If a deal happens, Anschutz and the NFL "will be in a position to press our political leaders for endless concessions" (L.A. TIMES, 3/16). In L.A., Rick Orlov wrote the "dirty little secret" of L.A.'s effort to bring an NFL team to town is it "doesn't matter who owns AEG." It also "doesn't matter what the NFL staff wants and recommends." It all "comes down to the 32 owners and whether they want to let someone new join their club" (DAILYNEWS.com, 3/18). In San Diego, Jay Paris wrote it is "obvious Anschutz doesn't have the stomach for the NFL, after being rebuffed on numerous fronts" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/16).
LEIWEKE'S LEGACY: In L.A., Jim Newton wrote Leiweke's departure could have a "significant" impact on L.A.'s ability to complete a football deal because there is an "escape clause in the agreement that makes the deal's closing contingent on either Leiweke's still being in place as chief executive officer or 'a qualified replacement' having been named as his successor." The city "gets to make that call, though it promises to 'act reasonably' in determining whether the replacement is qualified." That language was "placed in the agreement specifically because the city's trust in the deal was based largely on its faith in Leiweke." The clause "suggests both the special place Leiweke carved for himself in Los Angeles politics, as well as the special problems that his departure ... may now create." Newton wrote Leiweke was L.A.'s "muscle man," and though "not everyone likes him" he could "get the job done" (L.A. TIMES, 3/18). The UNION-TRIBUNE's Paris called Leiweke a "bully" who "got sand kicked in his face" last week. Paris: "Leiweke enjoyed throwing his barrel chest around, dismissing anyone questioning the sanity of shoehorning a 70,000-seat downtown stadium in an area more congested than a gathering of Padres starting pitching candidates" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/17). In L.A., Nick Green writes Leiweke was the opposite of the "shy, retiring Anschutz, a salesman and cheerleader with few peers who could speak unscripted in quotable machine-gun like bursts." He was the "outsize symbol of AEG, known for bombastic, hyperbolic contentions few dared contradict." What Leiweke "couldn't sell often came to pass anyway, propelled by the sheer force of his personality." He may have "met his match in NFL suits, unwilling to cede control of a massive and lucrative market to AEG" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/19).
GALAXY QUEST: MLSSOCCER.com's Scott French noted Leiweke's departure "stunned" the MLS Galaxy, but had "not shaken their belief that the club will continue on its path no matter who helms its ownership group." Coach & GM Bruce Arena said, "We're going to move on. It's unfortunate, but that's what we're charged to do." Leiweke was "praised as a forward-thinking leader who gave all of himself to make the Galaxy the 'gold standard' in American soccer" (MLSSOCCER.com, 3/15).