The fact that the Southern California-based AEG corporation is interested in bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles may be the worst-kept secret in America. But the company, owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz and run by president Tim Leiweke (brother of former Seattle Seahawks CEO Tod), expressed real and concrete interest in moving a team to SoCal — the first time in 16 years that the league would be located there — for a Thursday story in the Orange County Register.
"St. Louis, Jacksonville, not extensively, certainly Oakland, San Diego, Minnesota are still in the mix," Leiweke told reporter Scott M. Reed, when asked which franchises AEG had been talking to. Leiweke then added: "We're not packing any [moving] vans right now."
Leiweke then put it all on the table and said that AEG would be willing to pay to get a team out of a current stadium lease, citing the $24 million payment the Chargers would apparently have to make to get out of their current agreement.
However, in a recent Associated Press story, representatives of the Chargers and Raiders insisted that majority shares were not for sale, and the Vikings are trying to get their own stadium deal done.
When speaking to a group in Pacific Palisades on Thursday, according to Reid, Leiweke said that the $1.35 billion project to build Farmers Field (the as-yet nonexistent L.A. football field with a current name sponsor in Farmers Insurance) and renovate the Los Angeles Convention Center would bring $45 million per year in new taxes placed on hotel stays, property, employees and sales. AEG is currently negotiating a lease for the property on which the new stadium will stand; it's assumed that any team could play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until a new stadium was built.
AEG is also committing to write checks to cover any bridge between a debt on stadium bonds and revenue created, and the company is trying to get a memorandum of understanding with the Los Angeles City Council by July 31, according to Reid. If that happens, AEG can move forward, and would certainly want to enter into more comprehensive and aggressive talks with a current NFL team, or with the NFL about a new team.
Where this becomes interesting is that in order to end the current lockout (by choice or by force), it's almost certain that the owners will have to make concessions they don't want to make in order to avoid more stringent penalties by an Eighth Circuit Court that now seems more committed to ending the lockout, even if it shortfalls both sides. The bill for that will fall in the lap of Roger Goodell, and the best way for Goodell to save his own bacon will be to facilitate the sale of a team, or the expansion of the league, and the fat fees those moves generally put in the pockets of all owners.
In other words, when labor peace exists again, job one for Goodell will be to refill the coffers to the levels the owners expected when this labor standoff began, and AEG may be the organization willing — and able — to do so.