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Steve Lopez: Did Villaraigosa, council get played by AEG?

September 24, 2012 |  9:45 am

Villaraigosa AEG
Pro football in Los Angeles? We'll know more this week, with an L.A. City Council committee reviewing the downtown stadium proposal Monday and the full council voting Friday.

The betting line? It's probably a done deal, but let's hope someone on the council stops cheering long enough to ask some tough questions about the public impact and risks, and about last week's startling news that AEG, the Staples Center owner who's been pushing the deal, is for sale.

Steve LopezOne question I'd like to ask:

Did L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the council get played by AEG owner Phil Anschutz?

Slobbering, football-happy city officials have spent more than a year and countless man-hours happily putting a deal in place, with some great potential benefits but public risks as well, for AEG to rebuild a wing of the convention center as part of the stadium deal. And now, just when final approval is all but signed and sealed, Anschutz suddenly wants to sell all of AEG.

Why now?

The mayor has said he doesn't care why.

I do, especially if Anschutz's plan all along was to drive up the price of his company by first having L.A. city officials sweeten the package -- and state legislators pitching in, too -- by laying the groundwork for the return of football to L.A.

With a football franchise, or even the prospect of one, the billionaire Anschutz will add gazillions more to his bank account when he sells.

Money the Denver recluse isn't likely to spend in L.A.


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-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Magic Johnson after a February 2011 press conference where Timothy J. Leiweke, president and chief executive officer at AEG, announced that the Farmers Insurance Exchange has the historic naming rights agreement for the new downtown Los Angeles football stadium and event center. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times