* Had sought at least $8 billion for business
* Will forge ahead with L.A. stadium plan
By Ronald Grover and Soyoung Kim
March 14 U.S. billionaire Phil Anschutz has decided to scrap the sale of his Anschutz Entertainment Group and will retain ownership of the sports and entertainment empire, the company said on Thursday.
As part of the decision, Dan Beckerman will become president and chief executive officer of AEG, replacing Tim Leiweke, who has been at the helm since 1996 and is leaving the company. Leiweke's departure in particular was a shock to Los Angeles, where he had been the driving force in AEG's efforts to reshape the city's downtown area.
"From the beginning of the sales process, we have made it clear to our employees and partners throughout the world that unless the right buyer came forward with a transaction on acceptable terms were would not sell the company," Anschutz, AEG's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.
AEG put the company up for sale on Sept. 19. It had been seeking at least $8 billion for the business, whose assets include 120-owned or operated arenas around the world, the Los Angeles Kings professional hockey team, a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, and a concert business.
Colony Capital LLC, Guggenheim Partners LLC and Los Angeles biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong made second-round bids in February for the company, people familiar with the deal process told Reuters.
The bidders submitted non-binding offers of under $7 billion for AEG's assets, those people said. Colony Capital bid along with Qatar's sovereign wealth fund.
The bidders and AEG were more than $1 billion apart on price at that time, according to one of the people.
Sources have previously described AEG as profitable, with about $350 million a year in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. [ID:nL1N0BTGS2}
While there had been reports for some time that the sale might be troubled over valuation issues, many in the media were stunned by Leiweke's exit.
LAObserved, the well-regarded Los Angeles news website, says Leiweke's exit was "the real shocker" in the AEG news.
He was the public face of the company's $1.2 billion plan to lure a National Football League franchise to the nation's second-most populous city after nearly two decades without a professional American football team.
Beckerman said the company intended to go forward with the plan to build the stadium, to be named Farmers Field, and to bring a football team to Los Angeles. The company would also continue plans to build an arena in Las Vegas with casino operator MGM Resorts International.
"We appreciate the role Tim has played in the development of AEG, and thank him for the many contributions he has made to the company," Anschutz said in a statement. "We wish him well in his new endeavors."
Leiweke's influence extended beyond the sports business, though because of AEG's size and scope. Last month, the music trade magazine Billboard ranked him as one of the 10 most powerful people in the music industry.