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Villaraigosa defends not telling city negotiators about AEG

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday defended his decision not to tell city officials who have been negotiating with Anschutz Entertainment Group on a $1.2-billion football stadium deal that the company may be sold.

“I’m not going to tell everybody everything we’re doing,” Villaraigosa said at a City Hall news conference. “Because we want a football team, and a lot of what happens here has got to be negotiated quietly.”

Villaraigosa said he has known “for some time now” that the Anshutz Co. is looking to sell off its sports and entertainment subsidiary AEG, which owns Staples Center, the L.A. Live entertainment complex and championship teams including the Los Angeles Kings and L.A. Galaxy.

News of the potential sale was first announced late Tuesday, spurring questions about the fate of the 72,000-seat NFL stadium AEG has been seeking to build on city-owned land downtown.

The City Council is nine days from a key vote on the stadium deal, which also includes major renovation of the city-owned Convention Center. When asked whether City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top city negotiator, should have learned about the potential sale of the company sooner, Villaraigosa shook his head no. “I’m the mayor, and I knew,” he said.

As part of the deal, the city would issue as much as $391 million in debt. Roughly half of those bonds are the responsibility of the city’s budget. Santana, who is preparing the paperwork, said “it doesn’t matter” who owns AEG as long as the terms of the agreement remain the same. That agreement requires that AEG make up the difference if revenue from the stadium is not enough to cover the city’s debt payments, regardless of who owns the company, he said.

Villaraigosa would not say when he first learned of the AEG sale possibility, saying only that he has been in contact with company officials for a long time. He said that last December, he had a series of private meetings in Denver with Philip Anschutz, the billionaire owner of Anschutz Co.

The mayor said company officials did not ask him to keep the possibility of the sale a secret. And he said Anshutz did not tell him why he was selling the company.

“That wasn’t relevant to me,” Villaraigosa said. “What was relevant is whoever is buying this team is going to live by the deal that we negotiated.”

The mayor said he did not expect a change in ownership to affect plans for the stadium. “I feel very comfortable with the deal that we have and whoever owns AEG is going to live by that deal,” he said.

Santana agreed. “Regardless of who owns AEG, the deal stays in place,” Santana said. “From that standpoint it doesn’t matter ultimately who owns AEG.”

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-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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