Few people can endure the scrutiny involved in a lengthy New Yorker profile with their mystique intact. But the magazine hardly makes a dent in the armor encasing Phil Anschutz, despite the wealth of information about the "secretive mogul" amassed in Connie Bruck's "The Man Who Owns L.A.," in the magazine's January 16 issue.
Anschutz, the Qwest founder and oil-gas-railroads-sports tycoon, whose enterprises stretch from hefty interests in basketball, hockey and soccer teams to movie theaters to the Foundation for a Better Life to The Broadmoor, isn't a guy who opens up to nosy reporters. Although he owns plenty of media companies himself (including the Weekly Standard and Examiner.com), he hasn't given a press interview in decades. Much of what he has to say for himself in Bruck's article comes from speeches he's made to various groups over the years and an oral history session he gave the Colorado Historical Society back in 1974 -- the same source used to advantage in "The Miracle Worker," Andy Van De Voorde's trailblazing Westword profile of the shy wildcatter back in 1998.
But that doesn't mean Bruck's piece (available online only to subscribers) isn't worth a read. She devotes considerable attention to the public face of Anschutz's empire: Tim Leiweke, the former Denver Nuggets president who's now the CEO for the Anschutz Entertainment Group and is spearheading the company's ambitious investment in downtown Los Angeles, from the Staples Center to a burgeoning entertainment district to -- holy moley -- a proposed football stadium.
Can Leiweke and Anschutz lure the NFL back to Los Angeles for a third go-round? Can they snatch a discounted share in the team that would occupy their new stadium (the Raiders, Chargers, and Rams are all mentioned as possible candidates) while raking in $700 million from Farmers Insurance just for the naming rights? Can they persuade the financially strapped city to issue a staggering sum in bonds to help finance the deal --and tear down part of their convention center in the bargain?
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It all seems a bit fantastic, but Anschutz and Leiweke come across as fairly relentless in their quest. And the quiet billionaire has been known to let his money do the talking in prior ventures. Just ask the folks at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora or the inspiring underdogs featured in those Foundation for a Better Life billboards.
Wheeling and dealing. Pass it on.
More from our Business archive: "Phil Anschutz buys Broadmoor, vows not to make these changes."