Bill Boyarsky
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Anschutz vs. Roski: NFL battle of billionaire buccaneers

With Ari Gold, the mythical and thoroughly awful agent competing for a Los Angeles National Football League franchise in HBO’s Entourage, I’m reminded of the two real-life competitors, both of whom could be characters in the TV series.

One of them is Philip Anschutz, the multi-billionaire owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) whose lieutenant and front man, Tim Leiweke, is talking about building a stadium for an NFL team next to Staples Center and in the heart of AEG’s LA Live entertainment complex. The other is Ed Roski Jr., a billionaire developer who made his fortune in the Chinatown-like City of Industry. Roski wants to build an NFL stadium in Industry.

Their stories are part of a deeply researched, fascinating book, “City of Industry: Genealogies of Power in Southern California,” by Victor Valle, a former Los Angeles Times reporter and a professor in the ethnic studies department at California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.

Industry is well known to aficionados of local scandal. It is an odd little San Gabriel Valley city whose single purpose is to encourage and enrich developers and manufacturers through its redevelopment agency. The arrangement cheats surrounding cities and school districts of tax revenues businesses evade by locating in Industry. Double dealing, questionable city-business government deals and conflict of interest are normal behavior there.

As in Chinatown, Valle reports, land development and manipulation of local government agencies brought Anschutz and Roski together.

Like Chinatown’s devilish characters, Anschutz avoids publicity. He made his billions quietly in oil, sports, other entertainment and railroads. His Union Pacific railroad and its customers needed warehouse space along its route through the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles and to the harbor. Land developer Roski, owner of Majestic Realty, had the warehouses. According to Valle, Roski owns or controls 27 per cent of Industry’s 7,610 acres. He makes “the big decisions” in the city, Valle wrote.

Anschutz and Roski linked up, first on Roski’s warehouses, and then on owning the Kings, the Lakers, Staples Center and LA Live. The two were influential, Valle noted, in winning approval for the Alameda Corridor project, a direct rail line from the harbor, built by a combination of government agencies.

Now, as Daniel Miller reported in the Los Angeles Business Journal in May, Anschutz and Roski are engaged in a battle of the billionaires, floating stadium schemes as they compete for an NFL team.

They are classic L.A. buccaneers. Here’s hoping Entourage can find time for them this season.

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