Philip Anschutz's image as the most important Angeleno that most people have never seen — or even heard of — got a big boost with a front-page primer in Sunday's L.A. Times that jumped to three open pages inside. As usual, Anschutz wouldn't talk to reporter Glenn Bunting on the record, but they did exchange a few sentences in London seven months ago — an indication of how long Bunting has pursued his subject. So did he get much that's new? There are some details out of lawsuit records, depositions and interviews with adversaries who have done battle with the Anschutz corporate machinery, and his political contributions are toted up to about $1 million since 2000 (primarily to Republicans.) But like all Anschutz profiles, it's mostly a roundup of his business achievements through the years and his recent ambitions to clean up Hollywood movies, make money on soccer, go national with a chain of newspapers and build entertainment complexes. There is kind of interesting stuff about Anschutz arms trying to screw Mel Gibson out of some Passion of the Christ profits and charging churches $500 to worship in his theaters during the film. Nut grafs:
The moment captured Anschutz's trademark approach to investments, which holds that they are to be dominated, not merely owned. That philosophy has made Anschutz an economic force in Los Angeles, as important to the region's future, some say, as the William Mulhollands and Harry Chandlers of the past.
Yet in a city known for its entertainment moguls and industrialists who seek the limelight, Anschutz is intensely private. He is a longtime Denver resident and doesn't even maintain a Los Angeles address.
"Philip Anschutz is sort of like the Wizard of Oz," said Los Angeles economist Jack Kyser. "He is the man behind the curtain pulling the levers. Nobody sees him, yet he has a huge impact on Los Angeles."
In addition to the Home Depot Center in Carson, Anschutz built the $400-million Staples Center, dug a 130-mile oil pipeline from Kern County to Wilmington and is pumping $1.8 billion into a sports and entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles. He also has assembled the nation's largest chain of movie theaters and operates a Hollywood production company that is leading a revival of family-oriented films.
"There isn't a single person in the history of Los Angeles that has put more of his own money into this city," said developer Steve Soboroff, a onetime advisor to former Mayor Richard Riordan. "My feeling is we should rename the Harbor Freeway the Anschutz Freeway."
The piece pulls together four photos of the media-shy billionaire, and online there are some brief transcripts of him being unresponsive in depositions.
Photo: Joe Mahoney/Associated Press