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A Portrait of Philip Anschutz

Twenty years ago, you wouldn't have thought oil tycoon Phil Anschutz would get into the entertainment business, says Tim Leiweke, the head of the billionaire's sports and media company, Anschutz Entertainment Group. Not only has Anschutz moved into Hollywood, he moved into the soccer business as well-and is linking the two, because in David Beckham and Major League Soccer he sees the dawning of a new age in American sports. Says Leiweke, "He has an unbelievable gut instinct for what is about to come."

MLS Commissioner Don Garber points out that MLS wouldn't be alive if it weren't for Anschutz. One-time owner of six MLS teams, Anschutz now owns three: the L.A. Galaxy, Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo.

Soccer is his biggest gamble yet. Hardly a seasoned soccer fan, Anschutz, a huge supporter of the Republican party, initially became interested in the game as a family-friendly sport. Beckham, meanwhile, fits that mold perfectly, while at the same time attracting the kind of global star power that could catapult MLS to success in America. "It's that blue-collar work ethic in him, that is why we bet on David Beckham," Leiweke says, adding that AEG is now in talks to bring a second international star to the Chicago Fire, another of Anschutz's soccer teams. Who? All he says is, "There are only four players that move the needle: Ronaldo. Beckham. Zidane. Ronaldinho."

Read the whole story at New York Times »

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