The Chronicles of Christian Billionaire Phillip Anschutz


He’s been dubbed the “stealth media mogul,” was labeled by Fortune magazine as “America’s greediest executive,” made Beliefnet’s list of “The 12 Most Powerful Christians in Hollywood,” and has been described as “secretive” and “reclusive”—he reportedly hasn’t spoken on the record to the press since 1974. He’s Phillip Anschutz and he is one of the wealthiest men in America.

 

Anschutz made his fortune in railroads, telecommunications, the oil and gas business, and the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). He owns the Regal Entertainment theater chain, as well as movie making enterprises (Walden Media which co-produced The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe); arenas (LA’s Staples Center); a number of sports teams (including one-third of the Los Angeles Lakers and stakes in the LA Kings and the LA Galaxy soccer team); and AEG’s concerts division which promotes tours for pop stars like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Jon Bon Jovi.

 

Anschutz also owns the Examiner chain of conservative newspapers, as well as the conservative Weekly Standard (bought for a reported $1 million from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation).

 

Anschutzing Los Angeles

 

For nearly 16 years, from the time that both the Raiders and Rams left Los Angeles, the city has been without a National Football League team. Now, thanks to Anschutz, within the next few years that could change. In August, the Los Angeles city council “unanimously approved tentative plans by Anschutz Entertainment Group to build a new NFL-quality stadium on the site of the outdated and underused LA Convention Center,” Forbes magazine’s Christopher Helman recently reported. “The deal still requires a raft of further approvals before construction can begin, but it shows that Anschutz is moving assuredly towards the goal of bringing pro football back to LA. And what Anschutz (net worth: $7.5 billion or so) wants, Anschutz usually gets.”

 

According to Helman, AEG “would put up the expected $1.2 billion to build the stadium. It would seat 72,000 and could be completed as early as 2016. The only cost to LA taxpayers would be some $275 million in tax breaks.”

 

Anschutz’s stadium plan was aided by the California legislature. As the Los Angeles Times reported in September 2007, “One of the last things lawmakers did before they adjourned… was to pass a measure that would make Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of Staples Center, eligible for millions of dollars in state funds to improve the downtown area around its arena.

 

“Through AEG, Anschutz controls 120 entertainment venues around the world, including Staples Center in LA
—part of his just-completed $2.5 billion LA Live complex, which includes the Nokia Theater and a 1,101-room hotel tower.” According to Helman, “AEG, in partnership with Ryan Seacrest, plans to launch a new music-and-lifestyle-themed TV network that will bring viewers into the likes of LA Live, Shanghai’s new Mercedes-Benz Arena, and [England’s] O2” [arena].

 

The Odd Couple: Michael Jackson
and Anschutz

 

Perhaps the strangest of Anschutz’s business relationships revolves around the late Michael Jackson. AEG was the prime promoter of what was to be the “King of Pop’s” comeback tour. According to Portfolio.com’s Matt Haber, the deal was “potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” as AEG Live “would promote the 45 London Jackson events…at London’s O2 arena…. AEG was so committed to keeping the event on track, it paid Dr. Conrad Murray to act as the singer’s personal physician. Dr. Murray is…at the center of a police investigation into Jackson’s overdose from the anesthetic Propofol.”

 

AEG Live also partnered with Jackson’s estate to release This is It, a movie put together from “more than 100 hours of footage of Jackson preparing for the concerts.” Since its release, This Is It has become the highest grossing concert film in history with over $250 million in worldwide sales and nearly $45 million in from sale of the  DVD .

 

Political Activism

 

According to newsmeat.com, Anschutz has donated nearly $550,000 to political candidates and causes, including $301,000 to special interest groups and $223,000 to Republican Party candidates and committees. Anschutz supported Colorado’s anti-gay Amendment 2, a ballot initiative designed to overturn a state law giving equal rights to gays and lesbians. He helped fund the Discovery Institute, a conservative philanthropy- supported “think tank” based in Seattle, Washington that promotes intelligent design and critiques some theories of evolution. He also contributed to:

 

  • Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center, the New York-based Institute for American Values
     
  •  Enough is Enough, a conservative philanthropy-supported organization that campaigns for marriage and against single parenting, which claims to be “Lighting the way to protect children and families from the dangers of illegal Internet pornography and sexual predators”

 

  • Morality in the Media, established in 1962 “to combat obscenity and uphold decency
    standards in the media.”
     

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Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.