THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
As the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils battle for Lord Stanley's Cup, the question that needs to be asked is this. Who is the real winner here and what does that winner get? If you answered the Los Angeles Kings or the New Jersey Devils you guessed incorrectly.
Sure one of those teams will lift the Cup but the real winner is Phil Anschutz, the owner of the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles arena where the team plays, which generates money by having the name of a stationery store on the building marquee, LA Live and the booker for the Newark arena that houses the New Jersey Devils.
The winner gets buckets filled with arena money. Anschutz gets the buckets.
Anschutz has had a huge year. Sure his hockey team has made it to the finals but his hockey team started the season in October by playing the Buffalo Sabres in Berlin, Germany. Ordinarily a team from Los Angeles would not fly across the United States and take a Trans-Atlantic flight and play some 7,000 miles and nine time zones away from the home base. But Anschutz has a vested interest in playing a game in Berlin; his company Anschutz Entertainment Group owns the Berlin arena where the game took place.
Anschutz's company has a stake in the success of the arena in Newark. On Feb. 8, 2007, Anschutz's AEG Live signed a deal with New Jersey Devils ownership to book concerts and other live events into the Newark building.
Anschutz is doing rather well with the arena in a climate where the Devils and Newark have fought over revenue and when Devils ownership has money problems. AEG has helped turned the Newark arena into tenth place on the strength of 66 events on the global list of arenas that produce the most revenue.
Anschutz's London arena and his Los Angeles venue took the top two spots in revenues generated.
While Anschutz is not taking money in from Devils games, his company is in bed with the Devils and is actively working to maximize revenues in the Devils building. That probably is good news for the bond holders who are looking for money from Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek.
The National Hockey League was once jokingly known as the Norris House League. During the days of the six team league between 1942 and 1967, the Norris family owned the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Olympia arena and had controlling interest in the Chicago Stadium and Madison Square Garden. Jim Norris wasn't the majority owner of the Chicago Blackhawks or the New York Rangers but he had significant control over the franchises. Norris made more money with the circus at the Garden than New York Rangers playoff games and forced the team to play "home" games on the road in places like Toronto.
Anschutz hasn't pushed the Devils out of the building for a concert or the circus.
Jim Norris was considered the most power man in the NHL. Phil Anschutz is probably the most powerful man in today's NHL. There is a tale which has never been confirmed that Anschutz told Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider during the 2004-05 National Hockey League lockout when Snider wanted to end the lockout and play that Snider should shut up and that Anschutz would not only buy out Snider's Flyers but the other 28 NHL owners.
Anschutz has experience running multiple teams in a league. He and his AEG company have been involved with six different Major League Soccer franchises including the one that now plays in Harrison, N.J.
Anschutz has a number of minor league hockey teams in the United States, two hockey teams in Sweden and two in Germany. Anschutz's AEG has taken over the Tour of California bike race from Shelly Saltman and David Salzman although they are still involved with the race.
Anschutz also has a piece of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association. Anschutz's London arena hosted a pair of NBA regular season games in 2011 when the New Jersey Nets played the Toronto Raptors at the AEG venue.
Anschutz's AEG is attempting to build a football stadium around his LA Live property to house a National Football League team. His planned stadium has not passed muster with the NFL because of the way a potential lease has been presented.
Anschutz and AEG would build a facility and basically take most of the revenues from the team to pay off the debt on the stadium or take an equity position with the franchise such as the deal that is structured between the Lakers and AEG’s LA arena.
No matter, Anschutz is involved with the NHL, MLS, the NBA, the 2012 London Olympics, arenas in Los Angeles, Newark, Kansas City, Brooklyn and others around the world. There are concerts as well. Whether the Los Angeles Kings win or lose, Phil Anschutz has had the best year in the NHL and Anschutz probably will be a major force in the upcoming National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players Association collective bargaining negotiations. When Anschutz, who doesn’t say much publicly, talks sports, people stop and listen.
Therefore, Phil Anschutz is the winner of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at www.bickley.com and Amazon.