With the Lakers struggling and the future of pro hockey still in doubt, the owners of baseball's Dodgers and Angels have moved up in the ranks of L.A.'s most powerful sports executives.
Making a major league leap was the Angels' Arturo Moreno, who placed third on the annual Business Journal list, compiled by the consultancy Sports Business Group.
Moreno, who ranked fifth last year, is battling with Anaheim city officials over his decision to change the name of the team to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim a move he hopes will advance the team's branding throughout Southern California but which is generally creating an outcry in Orange County.
Meanwhile, Frank and Jamie McCourt, owners of the Dodgers, moved up to fourth position from seventh last year when they were just taking over ownership of the team from Fox.
"It's showing we are really one region," said Jeff Marks, senior consultant for Redondo Beach-based Sports Business Group. "What you're really seeing is two equally compelling products in this town. The question is who is going to be well-positioned for the next generation? Who is thinking long-term brand equity potential?"
Marks noted that despite skepticism about the Dodgers' off-season moves, which sent Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green to other teams, the McCourts have established themselves as owners who care about the club. "It's a different Dodger product than it was in the past. It's too soon to say whether it's better or its worse, but the good news is they are making a change."
Topping the Business Journal/Sports Business Group list is David Hill, Los Angeles-based chairman of Fox Sports, who over the past decade has created a network and cable powerhouse (see story, page 1).
"When it comes to money and labor, David Hill is really the guy in charge of running the empire," said Marks. "His position is corporate in nature, but he influences the decisions that are going on in all the other areas."
In the runner-up spot is Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates Staples Center as well as other venues. Leiweke ranked first last year.
It's been a tough year at Staples, with the 41-game Kings schedule cancelled because of the ongoing labor dispute involving National Hockey League players and, to a lesser extent, the poor showing of the Lakers, who are out of the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
The plight of the Kings and Lakers also dropped the teams' minority owner, Ed Roski Jr., five slots to No. 8, while Lakers owner Jerry Buss slipped from No. 4 to No. 6. Roski, who also has a stake in the Staples Center, said he is confident that the NHL will be back next season. "Everybody is working toward a settlement," he said.
The Sports Business Group prepared the survey based on personal finances, access to cash, stability in operations, number of employees, popularity with sports fans and community impact.
The list of 25 is largely unchanged from a year ago, with only three new members: Don Corsini, general manager of Viacom Inc. stations KCAL-TV (Channel 9) and KCBS-TV (Channel 2) (No. 19); Kathy Schloessman, president of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission (No. 22); and Bill Chadwick, chairman of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission (No. 25).
Corsini has particular influence among local media executives because Channel 9 has local broadcast rights for both the Angels and Lakers. Next season, the Dodgers will move to Channel 9 from KCOP-TV (Channel 13) under an eight-year deal valued at $5.2 million a season. The Angels contract with KCAL runs out after this season.
Aside from the newcomers, most of the changes are incremental, with USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett moving up one position, to fifth, on the basis of the football team's national championship title and the visibility that brings the school and Peter Ueberroth advancing to 17th from 24th last year, based on his position as chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Ueberroth, who managed the 1984 Summer Games in L.A., is charged with cleaning up the scandal-plagued committee.
"(The USOC) is arguably the most powerful national Olympic committee in the world," said David Simon, president of the Los Angeles Sports Council, who placed 15th on the list. "He has a deep knowledge of the Olympic world and practical hands-on business experience."
Sports remains an important economic driver for Southern California. Direct and indirect spending reached $2.7 billion in 2003, up from $2.5 billion in 2000, according to the most recent study by the Los Angeles Sports Council.
The revenue hike was partially attributed to new venues such as the Home Depot Center and the World Cup finals for women's soccer.
Meanwhile, overall attendance to sporting events jumped to 26.9 million in 2003, up from 23.2 million three years earlier. "Our studies have continually indicated over time that sports are a growth industry, said Simon. "Sports are still family events for the most part and popular across all demographics."
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