Anschutz’s Regal step

Billionaire leaves exhib chain

After more than five years building Regal Entertainment into the country’s largest exhib chain, Philip Anschutz is leaving his seat at the table.

Billionaire is stepping down from the company’s board to concentrate on private holdings, which include production shingle Walden Media.

Anschutz will not run for re-election when the board convenes in May, though he will retain a controlling stake in Regal through the Anschutz Co. A member of that firm, Craig Slater, will continue to hold a board seat.

The mogul will also vacate directorships on two other companies — telecom Qwest, which he founded and in which he holds a 17% stake, and Union Pacific, in which he is the largest shareholder, as he is in Qwest and Regal.

Anschutz is not planning to unload stock in any of the three companies.

Through a series of acquisitions, Regal has become the country’s largest theater chain, now controlling about 6,000 screens. But the exhib biz has been hit hard in the past few years, making unlikely more of the kind of expansion Anschutz prefers.

In a statement, Regal CEO Mike Campbell thanked Anschutz but made a point of noting the “continued involvement of the Anschutz Co. on Regal’s board of directors.”

Qwest, founded on the hope of creating a national broadband infrastructure, has gone through a period of acquisition and expansion but has become better known in the past few years for federal inquiries into its business practices.

Walden began life under former Dimension topper Cary Granat with an eye toward family programming. With a commitment for at least one “Chronicles of Narnia” sequel, the busy production company is also backing several pics that will be released in 2006, including Paramount-distribbed animated film “Charlotte’s Web” and New Line’s “Hoot,” based on the Carl Hiassen novel.

Anschutz news follows the announcement last week that Ted Turner will not run for re-election on the Time Warner board.

Like Turner, Anschutz may have been affected by increasing time commitments and the governmental scrutiny a directorship entails.

But unlike the ex-cable mogul, whose move was regarded as a further evacuation from corporate life, Anschutz will likely concentrate on building on a portfolio that already includes the Los Angeles Kings, the San Francisco Examiner and a diverse set of real-estate and oil holdings, including L.A.’s Staples Center.

Forbes estimates the net worth of the idiosyncratic tycoon at more than $7 billion.

Anschutz is said to be relatively hands-off with Walden, appearing only occasionally at meetings, and one insider said that it’s unlikely he’ll get more involved.

An Anschutz spokesman said that while it is impossible to measure involvement, he thought the tycoon’s holdings were spread too widely for the relationship to intensify.

“His forte is putting together companies and projects that will be successful, and he gives staff a lot of independence to do that,” spokesman Jim Monaghan said. “I don’t think the chemistry will change.”

Anschutz is, however, set to make another foray into media with the spring launch of the Baltimore Examiner, a media outlet Monaghan described as “a newspaper for people who aren’t newspaper readers.” The mogul has also been rumored as a possible buyer for the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, but Monaghan dismissed the reports.

“There was no truth to it then and no truth to it now,” he said.