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Billionaire backers of LA football back out of city’s stadium deal

The Associated Press
Monday June 17, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Billionaire backers poised to build a downtown stadium to lure a professional football team back to Los Angeles abruptly abandoned their plans, according to published reports. 

The Anschutz Entertainment Group said investors did not want to compete with a $1 million bid by boosters of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the quest for a National Football League team, the Los Angeles Times and Daily News of Los Angeles reported Saturday. 

The Rose Bowl in neighboring Pasadena also is making an NFL bid. 

“We made this pretty clear to the Coliseum from the start, and when we were told we might have a challenge and some competition, we said, ‘We wish you the best and if you do that we will get out,’ and we’re going to do that,” Anschutz group president Tim Leiweke said. 

“Unfortunately, this is just all too predictable, and the people who will lose are the football fans. We believe we had made great progress and were close to a deal with the NFL and that teams were interested,” Leiweke added. 

Although it had the backing of Mayor James K. Hahn, the new stadium plan drew criticism from lawmakers and others who feared taxpayer funds would be used to pay for the $450 million, 64,000-seat facility. 

Leiweke also said the decision was based partly on the debate involving proposed secession of the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. 

“We didn’t want to be used by either side in that and didn’t want to see this hurt the efforts by the mayor to keep the city together,” Leiweke said. 

Anschutz is made up of billionaires Phillip Anschutz of Denver, Eli Broad and Ron Burkle; Los Angeles Avengers arena football owner Casey Wasserman; and real estate magnate Ed Roski Jr. 

Their announcement came the day after Leiweke and Wasserman gave a downtown business group more details on a proposed stadium site. 

City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes the Coliseum and who is a member of the Coliseum Commission, called the announcement nothing more than a business decision. 

“This doesn’t surprise me. The NFL didn’t give them any assurances, not one single assurance, and the Coliseum has always been there,” he said. 

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who threatened legal action against the city’s redevelopment plan involving the stadium site, questioned the commitment to the project. 

“If this is all it took to collapse this proposal, it couldn’t have had much merit,” Yaroslavsky said. 

Los Angeles has been without a professional football team since 1995, when the both the Rams and Raiders left Southern California.