Curtains for downtown football stadium?*

farmers5.jpgIt's over, writes LAT football writer Sam Farmer, who says that the unexpected departure of AEG CEO Tim Leiweke pretty much dooms any chance that the stadium will get built. It was Leiweke who pushed the idea and who had to persuade his boss, Philip Anschutz, that the project was worth financing. But Anschutz has insisted that AEG retain revenue streams like suite sales and parking, and the league, which likes its owners to be in control, said that was a non-starter. Leiweke was the presumed middleman in the standoff, but with him gone it's hard to see how the proposal moves forward. Earlier this month, Yahoo Sports, citing sources, reported that the stadium deal was essentially dead, because as one NFL official said, "the numbers just don't work." Shoehorning the facility between the Convention Center and Staples Center always had been considered a tough sell, but Leiweke proved to be a master salesman in the development of L.A. Live, the Nokia Theater, and the JW Marriott hotel and condo complex. So he was given the benefit of the doubt on a lot of stuff. Leiweke became hugely influential in L.A. politics - so much so that the City Council and Mayor Villaraigosa could barely contain their credulous glee at the prospect of having AEG bankroll the stadium and convention center redo (happy to ignore the longer-term financial concerns). Today, those same city officials are sounding as if they've been smacked with two-by-fours. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who was uncomfortably tight with Leiweke, actually called the decision to call off the sale of AEG a good thing - and indeed today's press release noted that development of Farmers Field was still a priority for AEG. Maybe it is - so long as Anschutz gets what he wants. But the truth is the NFL doesn't need Los Angeles and might not even want Los Angeles - certainly not when the stadium owner wants to run the show. Is the stadium dead? Not completely, but Perry and the others must be hallucinating if they think this is good news.

*Update: The LAT snagged a rare interview with Anschutz (damage control, no doubt), who said that he's still interested in bringing the NFL back to L.A., though he notes that "we won't be pushed into a deal."

"We're not going to make the NFL happen by ourselves," the 72-year-old AEG chairman said. "The NFL is a player here. They have to decide what they want to do. "We're open for business to do a deal. It's not rocket science.... We'll do a reasonable deal, but we won't be pushed into a deal."

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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