Kings are the foundation that AEG built on
Despite establishing a reputation as one of the most successful leaders in professional sports, AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke has said his work would be incomplete until the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup.
That desire became reality for the team’s governor last Monday, when the Kings defeated New Jersey and won the Cup Final in six games.
The day before the Kings’ championship parade through Los Angeles and celebration at Staples Center, staff writer Christopher Botta spoke with Leiweke about the Kings’ success on and off the ice and what it means to AEG — including, quite possibly, the return of the NFL to Los Angeles.
■ Now that it has happened, can you explain why the Stanley Cup was so important to the company and what it means to you now?
LEIWEKE: AEG has become a large and good company, but we all started with the Kings and Mr. [Phil] Anschutz buying them in 1995 and taking them out of bankruptcy. The goal was to rebuild the organization and eventually use it to build the Staples Center and make the arena the centerpiece for L.A. Live. If you follow the chain, every decision we made in this company somehow goes back to the Kings. The Kings are the foundation we built this company off of.
From a public standpoint, especially in Los Angeles, the Kings are the most visible asset we have. Even though we own a third of the Lakers, and even though we have the Galaxy and we have a lot of other things like L.A. Live, the reality is there are more words written and more impressions created on our stewardship of the Kings than anything else we do. As the image of the Kings goes, so does the image of AEG in L.A.
|The Kings have their Cup, but “we have to win a few more to have a legacy.”
LEIWEKE: Looking at the way we grew the business — the new season tickets, the new sponsors, our TV ratings, our new TV deal, our commitment to using social media as a platform — I’m proud of the way we took advantage of this opportunity. When you look at a 25 share [for TV locally] on Monday night, it tells you an awful lot about how well our team seized the moment.
■ How are Kings’ merchandise sales going?
LEIWEKE: We set an all-time record in Staples Center on Monday night, far surpassing anything we’ve ever done in one night with the teams and concerts. Just for the Cup Final, through the day after winning the Cup, we’re at $2.5 million — just at our arena store. I expect we’ll surpass $4 million after the totals come in from the parade and celebration for season-ticket holders we’re hosting at the arena. Pretty amazing and heady stuff.
■ Kings’ season tickets are close to sold out for next season. Selling the few remaining tickets over-the-counter won’t be a problem. Sponsorships sales are strong. Can complacency become a hurdle?
LEIWEKE: The Lakers have taught us a lot about dynasties. You can’t have a better professor than Dr. [Jerry] Buss. He is a brilliant example in what it takes to compete every year. We have an opportunity with all these great young players like Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. From a marketing standpoint, we want to be seen right there with the Lakers and the Dodgers. It means we’ve got work to do, because we’re not there yet. It means we have to win a few more to have a legacy and that kind of standing in this community.
■ With this kind of momentum for AEG, has your optimism increased that you can bring an NFL team to Los Angeles?
LEIWEKE: We’ve made a strong statement about the way the “campus” [Staples Center and the L.A. Live district] can handle this activity, especially in mid-May with the Kings, Clippers and Lakers alive in the playoffs and the arena packed for all of them. We’ve now seen everything at L.A. Live and Staples Center: NHL and NBA championships; the Grammys; we’ll have the NCAA basketball regional next year.
This is the right place for football. This is the epicenter for sports and entertainment in Southern California. Our ability as an organization to be successful long term with the NFL should give the NFL great comfort. This is the right location and the right organization for the NFL to never have to worry for 20, 30, 40 years about football here. That’s what we bring to the table. So yes, this Kings victory helps us.
■ Have you thought about what you want to do when you have the Stanley Cup for the day?
LEIWEKE: You always think about it in the back of your mind before the title comes, but you never want to get ahead of your team. For me, it’s all about these players. I’m going to have a better time watching them celebrate with the Cup than anything I could possibly do with it.