[MLS SPOTLIGHT]Soccer fans know Tim Leiweke as the man who brought David Beckham to MLS. But in the greater universe of sports and entertainment, AEG's soccer business was just a small part of the business that he helped turn into a worldwide force.
Leiweke, who oversaw the development of such venues as the L.A Live entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles, the O2 in London, the O2 World in Berlin, the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and the Mastercard Center in Beijing, and AEG Live, a billion-dollar concert business, is out as the president and chief executive officer of AEG. The move came the same day AEG's owner, Philip Anschutz, announced he was terminating his bid to sell the company.
Leiweke parted ways by “mutual agreement” with AEG, according to a statement released by Anschutz. But the move is stunning, given his length of service -- he joined AEG in 1996 to run its NHL team in Los Angeles -- and his close ties to Anschutz, the Kansas-bred billionaire owner whose expansive entertainment empire belies his interest in privacy and conservative values.
AEG only owned the Colorado Rapids when MLS launched in 1996, but it added the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998 and bought the Los Angeles Galaxy the same year, making Marc Rapaport's LA Soccer Partners the first owners to make a profit on soccer.
While MLS struggled for its first decade, Anschutz stuck with the league, and AEG expanded its hold to include interests in six clubs. At its height, AEG owned six of the league's 10 teams. But AEG sold off interests in Colorado, New York, Chicago and D.C. United and part of its interest in Houston, leaving only the Galaxy as the only wholly-owned AEG team left in MLS.
As MLS entered its second decade, Leiweke pushed to allow MLS clubs to spend more on players. He got passed what became known as the Beckham Rule, allowing teams to sign Designated Players and paving the way for the signing of David Beckham by the Galaxy in 2007.
Like his brothers, Leiweke learned sports management in the old MISL -- he worked for the old Kansas City Comets -- and he later went on to work in the NBA (Minnesota and Denver) before joining AEG.
No reason was given for Leiweke's departure or about his future plans. Anschutz announced in September that he was seeking to sell AEG in a deal that could fetch $7 billion.
“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.
Anschutz named Dan Beckerman, AEG's chief financial officer and chief operating officer, to replace Leiweke.