While the rest of the sporty world buzzes about high-profile properties up for sale in the Staples Center and L.A. Live, the soccer world has commenced to being curious (and quite possibly concerned) about what this news means for soccer.
Because Major League Soccer, the sport’s most visible domestic property, may not even exist today without the financial footing provided a few years back by the famously reclusive Phil Anschutz.
The Anschutz Co., run by the Denver-based billionaire, announced its intentions yesterday to offload AEG, which owns and operates the Staples Center, L.A. Live, a portion of the L.A. Kings as well as the Galaxy and Home Depot Center.
There is already speculation that L.A. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong could put together a bid for the properties.
It will take time to unravel all the potential implication for MLS – but implications surely there will be.
Anschutz once owned five MLS teams, so he and AEG clearly did their part in pushing the boulder up a very big hill – at a time when few others were willing to put their shoulders into it.
Beyond its substantial financial stake, AEG and its well-heeled management group have always been out front in efforts to create more aggressive league growth. The so-called Beckham Rule (the league’s Designate Player mechanism) was an outgrowth of AEG’s efforts to lure David Beckham through the middle of the last decade.
Later, the Galaxy was first in line to exploit the league’s subsequent expansions of those DP guidelines, which now permit three salary-exempt marquee men.
So this has the potential to significantly reshape the board meetings that render the league’s major decisions and provide its essential directions.
Here’s what MLS commissioner Don Garber told SI.com’s Grant Wahl last November, just before the Galaxy won MLS Cup 2011 at the Home Depot Center:
Phil is our George Halas. Without a doubt MLS and sport of soccer in America is not what it is today without the neverending commitment and belief that Phil Anschutz has in us and the sport. …
It sort of warms my heart to have a weekend where he can in his own way cherish all that he has contributed. The Home Depot Center set the stage for soccer stadiums in our country. The L.A. Galaxy as a global brand came out of his and Tim Leiweke’s vision for creating a premier soccer team in America.
He doesn’t think about legacies, he doesn’t look for attention. He’s not doing any of this for a pat on the back. But every soccer fan in North America, if they ever happen to have the chance to meet him should walk over to him and say thank you.”