NFL confirms tiff with Leiweke over proposed team ownership

City officials had been pooh-poohing reports in October about the league having little interest in bringing a team to L.A. under the plan laid out by Anschutz Entertainment Group. But the concerns are apparently true, according to a profile of Leiweke and Phil Anschutz in this week's New Yorker. Basically, AEG proposed the kind of relationship it has with the Lakers, Clippers and Kings. That is, it would sell sponsorships and premium seats, as well as operate parking and concessions, and a percentage of those revenues would then go to the team. But several owners objected to this idea because it upends the current NFL business model. And the league appears to agree.

In the league's view, the deal that Anschutz was proposing was doubly flawed: not only was he trying to get a share of a team at a discount but he wanted a landlord-tenant relationship that, in its control of revenues, amounted to a kind of asset-stripping. "It's unlikely the league or a team would approve this proposal," said [Eric Grubman, the N.F.L.'s executive vice-president of business ventures]. Six weeks earlier, Grubman continued, he had given Leiweke an outline of elements that he thought would persuade a team to sign with Anschutz. "Since they haven't quit, I have some optimism they're working toward it," Grubman said.

This process is not exactly transparent, so it's very hard to know how close - or far - AEG is to lining up a team. But this morning came word that the Chargers would stay put in San Diego through at least 2012. Perhaps another franchise owner will come forward, though a few weeks back Commissioner Roger Goodell splashed cold water on L.A. getting an NFL team next season, which is clearly what Leiweke had in mind. Aside from football, New Yorker writer Connie Bruck asked Leiweke about his interest in politics:

Last time, he said, he gave money to Barack Obama, but he believes that the President has engaged in class warfare. "Look, I personally came from nothing," he said. "Someone making me look like a bad guy because I'm making money now? I resent that. I'm really upset about the way he is positioning this now about protecting the rich. I was never rich in my life. I earned everything, built my life from the ground up, and never got one damn break in my life! I resent the fact that when my mom was sick, and my dad had to pay for her treatment, it took every dime from my dad and broke him as a human being and he was never the same. And then, after we have overcome that, now to make me look like I'm bad, I'm evil, I'm greedy, I don't give. Terrible!" He went on, "I hugely admire Phil for putting everything back in. This is a man that's never pulled anything out of this campus. Double down, triple down, quadruple down. And then people take shots at him because, they say, 'He's a billionaire.' He's the most humble man I know." When people attack Anschutz, he continued, "I take it personally, almost like I was his son."

Earlier: Report: NFL not happy with AEG's proposal for football

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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.
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