What’s Next For AEG, Leiweke?

In the week since Philip Anschutz abruptly announced the sale of AEG was off and longtime president/CEO Tim Leiweke resigned, the company – save for a rare interview and conference call by Anschutz – seems to have retreated back under the cone of silence.

But that relative quiet may be deceiving. AEG is, after all, regrouping under a “committee of the chairman” structure with company execs moving into new roles and at least one, newly minted COO Jay Marciano – moving to Los Angeles from London.

Requests for interviews with key execs, including new president/CEO Dan Beckerman and Marciano, have gone unanswered and even Leiweke – usually not one to shy from the press – has emerged but once to tell the Los Angeles Times he wouldn’t have much to say until after he’d enjoyed life “for about a week.”

That hasn’t stopped anyone else, at least not outside AEG. Sources inside AEG, who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak on the subject, expressed surprise and “upset” with Leiweke’s departure, but are otherwise uniformly encouraged by Anschutz’s statement that he intends to be “re-engaged” with day-to-day business.

Beckerman takes the reins after a long career with AEG, starting in 1977 as chief financial officer of the Los Angeles Kings, of which the company has a stake. Prior to that, he was vice president of finance for the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team that shares AEG’s Staples Center with the Lakers.

He has a background in corporate tax accounting, having worked as a senior accountant for Arthur Anderson in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times. And he earned his MBA from UCLA with an undergrad degree in economics.

So Beckerman is no stranger in Los Angeles, which is a good thing given the microscope put on AEG since Anschutz shuffled his company’s deck March 14. He has some big shoes to fill following the gregarious Leiweke – who left huge footprints in L.A.’s business, sports, entertainment, cultural, political and philanthropic worlds.

The Times paid homage to Leiweke on its editorial pages March 18, enumerating accomplishments such as the building of Staples Center and L.A. Live, saying, “Leiweke got his projects done by making sure that Los Angeles’ many interests all got something out of them.”

But possibly most telling is the op-ed’s lead block, which underscores Leiweke’s leading role in the city’s struggle to acquire and NFL team and build a stadium capable of bringing a Super Bowl back to town.

“How significant was Tim Leiweke to the deal between [AEG] and Los Angeles for a football stadium?” the Times asks. “This is how significant: There is an escape clause in the agreement that makes the deal’s closing contingent on either Leiweke’s still being in place as chief executive officer or ‘a qualified replacement’ having been named as his successor.” The block concludes “that language was placed in the agreement specifically because the city’s trust in the deal was based largely on its faith in Leiweke.”

It speaks well of both Beckerman and Leiweke; the NFL is signaling that it is not yet ready to walk away from Anschutz or Los Angeles, despite the change at the top. But it also leaves open room for another possibility: That Leiweke may not be as far away from that stadium or the NFL as people assume.

Among the scenarios being whispered in the background is that Leiweke could put together his own group to make an offer on AEG. Just because the sale is off the table right now does not mean Anschutz won’t sell later – if and when the right offer emerges.

But until the dust finishes settling, it’s all just gossip. In the meantime, AEG is writing checks for The Rolling Stones indicating that life indeed goes on and, until further notice, it’s business as usual in the City of Angels.