Five months after his abrupt breakup with Phil Anschutz and professional exile to Toronto, former Anschutz Entertainment Group chief Tim Leiweke talked with Giselle Fernandez for her Big Shots video series at the Los Angeles Magazine website. You have to remember, while Anschutz is the most powerful LA billionaire no one really knows, Leiweke wielded the public power. He could get anybody to take his call in LA business or politics (and probably gave orders to some of them), he ran Staples Center and LA Live, he was the impetus behind the push for an NFL stadium next to the arena, and for good measure he was the number one fan when his Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time. More than a few expected he might run for mayor someday.
Then he was gone, abruptly, last March. Anschutz himself announced that AEG was no longer on the market and that his right-hand for the entire 20 years the company was a player in Los Angeles was leaving. Leiweke soon surfaced in Toronto as the head of the company that operates the Maple Leafs hockey team. In his conversation with Fernandez, he sounds like a guy who intends to come back and show LA that he's still a player.
Watch the interview at the Los Angeles site. Here are some highlights:
Well I didn’t get a chance to properly say goodbye either so this is my chance to thank everyone for what has been a pretty amazing 20-year run here. So it’s not a permanent goodbye. Los Angeles is a place that I think all of those that leave always aspire to come back and be a part of....
He won't offer any criticism of Anschutz, who he says he sees now only at board meetings.
I always understood it was his company and his money. And he always understood that in order to grow a company you needed a CEO that was out front and public....We had to be aggressive. And it was a role he never wanted to play. He’s a very quiet, private man and I respected that about him. And he respected the fact that in LA if you are quiet, you probably die.
He talks more about that, and answers Fernandez's question about any regrets:
Well, not getting in the NFL. You know a lot of people put their necks on the line for that vision. Whether it be Governor Brown or Mayor Villragosa at the time or Councilperson Perry or Maria Elena Durazo from a union standpoint. Community activists. We had pretty much consensus. And as we all know in LA, that never happens. And so to get that many people to buy into the vision....to get that close to trying to finalize it....
I still think it has a moment in time. And I think again, Phil is uniquely poised to finish it off if he can. So, I hope he does.
Leiweke says he'll be watching to see if Mayor Eric Garcetti grows into the job as a leader.
I think Eric has that kind of potential. Do I think Eric has that leadership today? I think Eric is going to have to find the balance between sticking his neck out there occasionally, making tough decisions, and supporting things that are going to have to create jobs. Even if not everyone’s on the same page. The airport’s a great example. They’ve gotta fix the airport....
I know there’s a lot of people in and around that neighborhood that voiced their opinion about the runway and improvements. I’m pretty sure they knew they were moving next to the airport. And so, it shouldn’t be a shock to them that planes are going to land there. And the industry is making bigger planes. And those planes are going to land in San Francisco and Seattle, and Colorado and Denver and New York.