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MLS Wiz: Philip Anschutz

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article about the eccentric investor-billionaire Phillip Anschutz, a man whose name Major League Soccer fans know very well. One-time owner of no less than six of the league's teams, Anschutz is also responsible for stadia, movie theaters, even a Hollywood production company; he has interests in 100 companies in all, most of them private, spanning the oil, gas, real estate, movies, telecommunications, sports and entertainment industries. "Philip Anschutz is sort of like the Wizard of Oz," said Los Angeles economist Jack Kyser. "He is the man behind the curtain pulling the levers. Nobody sees him, yet he has a huge impact on Los Angeles." In fact, Anschutz is pumping $1.8 billion into a new sports and entertainment district in downtown LA. He has the cash, apparently: Anschutz is No. 28 on Forbes' list of the richest people in America, with an estimated net worth of $7.2 billion. He was already a multi-billionaire by the time Anschutz bought his first sports franchise, the LA Kings, but the purchase of the failing hockey club was primarily his vision to revitalize LA's downtown area. The first step was the Staples Center, widely regarded as the most successful arena anywhere. Five of Anschutz's sports franchises are soccer teams. During the 1994 World Cup the United States, Anschutz became interested in the game. Two years later, despite warnings from many skeptics, Anschutz launched the Colorado Rapids; by 2002, he controlled six MLS teams: MetroStars, Los Angeles, Chicago, Colorado, San Jose and D.C. United. Part of his strategy for making the league profitable is developing soccer-specific stadiums, like the Home Depot Center, which opened in 2003. Anschutz recently sold the MetroStars to the Red Bull, an energy drink company, for a record $100 million. "Two decades ago, people said this could never be done," said Don Garber, commissioner of Major League Soccer. "Two decades from now, people will ask how it was done, and the answer will be Phil Anschutz."

Read the whole story at Los Angeles Times »

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