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Too big to sell? AEG off the block

Anschutz decides not to sell the global sports, entertainment powerhouse

Less than two weeks after private equity firm Guggenheim Partners dropped out of the running to buy AEG, Philip Anschutz has decided not to sell the global sports and entertainment powerhouse and made a number of changes to the company’s top executive ranks.

AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke will be replaced by COO and CFO Dan Beckerman, according to a statement from the Anschutz Co. issued Thursday. Ted Fikre will become vice chairman and continue as the company’s legal and development officer, and will also assume responsibility for AEG’s governmental and media relations. President and CEO of AEG Europe Jay Marciano will relocate from London to Los Angeles to become COO.

The Anschutz Co. put AEG up for sale last year through a process led by the Blackstone Group. Observers estimated the company’s price tag to be between $6 billion and $8 billion at the time — a number that immediately raised skepticism about whether thefinancial markets could support such a large transaction.

Many observers voiced concern that the sheer scale of AEG could dissuade potential bidders. AEG’s assets include stakes in the Los Angeles Kings and Lakers, and Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo.

Its marquee venues include L.A. Live and the Staples Center in Los Angeles and London’s O2 arena, and its AEG Live arm operates extensive touring, festival and exhibition operations.

Some experts suggested that the company could attract more suitors if it sold its marquee assets separately, thereby breaking up the various divisions of AEG into more “affordable” pieces.

In addition to changes at the top, AEG also stated that Todd Goldstein, who had recently been elevated to chief revenue officer, will continue in that role. Steven Cohen, exec VP of the Anschutz Co., will serve as AEG’s chief strategic officer while retaining his role at AEG’s parent company.

The company gave no reason for Leiweke’s departure, but stated the exec would leave “by mutual agreement.”

AEG also said Anschutz himself would assume a more active role in the company, “with a particular focus on the company’s worldwide strategy and operations.” Anschutz, who is chairman and CEO of the Anschutz Co., also controls the nation’s largest exhib, Regal Entertainment, and “The Chronicles of Narnia” producers Walden Media.

Beckerman, Fikre, Marciano, Goldstein and Cohen, together with Anschutz, will constitute AEG’s office of the chairman.

“From the very 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 we would not sell the company,” Anschutz said in a statement. “The company’s operations will continue to be run by AEG’s experienced senior executive team, most of whom have been with AEG for over a decade. We will continue to set the standards in the industries in which AEG operates, bringing our unique vision and development model to entertainment locations throughout the world.”

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