Bill Chadwick has been front and center in the ongoing efforts to bring NFL football back to L.A. As president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, he must negotiate a lease that addresses the interests of the commission's city, county and state members. Chadwick has been steeped in sports all his life: Son of a former professional hockey player, he still water skis competitively and was a Hall of Fame college football and lacrosse player. Before co-founding real estate investment firm Chadwick Saylor, he was a tax attorney and served as assistant secretary of labor under former President Gerald Ford. He was a close advisor to former L.A. Mayor James Hahn, who himself has taken a job at Chadwick Saylor.


Question: How close are we to getting an NFL team in Los Angeles?
Answer:
I think we're very close. The NFL is negotiating with the Coliseum Commission. The NFL is simultaneously negotiating with Anaheim. They want fully executable leases with both and they want the NFL owners to make a choice. The Coliseum is the fairly clear-cut economic choice. L.A. is the second largest media market in the country. The five-county area is the 16th largest economy in the world. All the economic drivers center on that location.


Q: What about Anaheim?
A:
Anaheim is making a serious go of it. At the end of the day, I think you'll have two new teams in Southern California.


Q: When will a decision be made?
A:
The next scheduled owners meeting is in March. The league is negotiating a collective bargaining agreement, and working on revenue sharing by and between the teams, and the issue of a new team in Southern California is third on their list. They want to know what their economics are before they make a decision.


Q: What would a new stadium cost and what would it look like?
A:
Rebuilding the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and preserving the historic elements of it will probably cost between $500 million and $550 million. It would be a 68,000-seat stadium, expandable for USC games and the Super Bowl, with 200 luxury boxes. Soldier Field in Chicago has 67,000 seats and is a model of what they want to do.


Q: What role should the government have in getting Los Angeles an NFL team?
A:
The state's role is very clear. It has to execute a lease to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum Commission, which has to execute a lease to the NFL, which will be assigned to a member team either an existing franchise that wants to relocate or a new franchise. The city's role is primarily facilitating the processing of the permits needed to develop 1.5 million square feet of new space. The city also obviously has a role in police and fire protection and critical city services.


Q: What are some of the challenges of having city, county and state interests working together in the Coliseum Commission?
A:
The Coliseum is unique because it's state property. The Coliseum Commission is unique because it's a tri-power entity, which makes it a little bit of a cumbersome structure. You don't have a person who can say, "OK, ladies and gentlemen, this is what we're doing and this is how we're doing it." Compromise and teamwork are at a premium if you want to get things done. I try to look at this as merely a complicated lease negotiation. We're leasing from the state, subleasing a piece of real estate, and selling a building to a developer who's going to use it for commercial purposes.


Q: Have you agreed on any of those terms with the NFL yet?
A:
I can't disclose any of those terms, but I think we have reached complete agreement on all material economic terms.


Q: Assuming a deal will come, when will we know what teams the NFL has on the short list for L.A. candidates?
A:
It's the NFL that will execute the lease and build the stadium. At some point, at the end of that process, NFL ownership decides if a team will relocate. We have no role in that process.


Q: What went wrong six years ago when you were first asked to negotiate with the NFL for an L.A. team?
A:
In 1999, it was an auction for a new franchise. Houston was willing to spend $550 million to build a new stadium. And Bob McNair was willing to spend $700 million for a Houston franchise. The total was $1.25 billion. The state was willing to spend about $150 million on entrance and exit road improvements and light rail, which would be paid for by tax exempt bonds, which would be repaid through a ticket tax. The competing ownership groups were willing to spend $500 million for the franchise. The state was not willing to use general fund money to bring football to Los Angeles.


Q: What's different this time?
A:
Now the NFL really wants to be in this market in Southern California. They want it done. Very different. We don't have any general fund money that's off the table. The NFL has an interest in being in the second largest media market in America.


Q: If you don't benefit financially at all from your work on the Coliseum Commission, why do it?
A:
It's fun. Football is the sport of my passion. It's truly serendipity that I get to be president of the Coliseum Commission while USC is national champion and we're in the thick of negotiating a deal for an NFL team. I'm extremely fortunate to be able to help with this effort. My wife and I go to all the USC games. I get to be on the field and in the commissioner's box. It makes the time commitment worth it.


Q: You're not a politician and don't work in government, so how did you get involved in local politics?
A:
In college, I majored in history, and my honors thesis was on the city manager form of government. So I've always been fascinated with city government.


Q: So would you consider running for some public office?
A:
No way, never. The problem is I'm not very interested in other people's opinions. If you're not saying what I think, then I think you're wrong, because I'm right. I am interested in public service, and giving back. I would want to be treasury secretary or something like that.


Q: Are you concerned that your close contacts with local political figures create the perception of a conflict of interest in your business?
A:
I have never directly or indirectly tried to seek any benefit or advantage from any city, county or state official. I'm a registered independent. I served under a Republican president in the Labor Department. I contribute to candidates that I think are the most qualified, and most of them have been Democrats because they are in power in this state. I support them, because I think they will be able to make a better business climate.


Q: Why did you hire Jim Hahn and what does he do for your firm?
A:
Jim is extremely well known in L.A. He has very broad and deep relationships with a lot of people and he's helping me deepen relationships with a lot of people and develop business relationships for my firm. We're sponsoring a fund, L.A. Development Partners, which we intend will invest significant amounts of equity capital to develop commercial real estate in the L.A. starting sometime between March and June. The target is $250 million. Jim will be CEO of that fund.


Q: So how's your relationship with the current mayor?
A:
We have, professionally, a very good relationship. He's been more vocal about football and supportive of getting an NFL team here than either of the previous two mayors. They were supportive, but they weren't really part of the effort.


Q: You have several large framed pictures of a hot rod, so I guess you like vintage cars?
A:
The only thing vintage about the car is the body. My car is a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500 with an aluminum Vortex supercharged engine with a nitrous oxide system. It has a specially built suspension system, electric windows, fire and soundproof insulation and antilock brakes. I drive up to Bakersfield on Wednesday afternoons to go water skiing. I water ski 80 days a year.


* Bill Chadwick
Title: Principal
Company: Chadwick Saylor & Co. Inc.
Born: Queens, N.Y., 1948
Education: B.A. in government, St. Lawrence University, 1970; J.D., Vanderbilt Law School 1973
Career Turning Point: Leaving law practice and founding Chadwick Saylor with longtime friend and client Paul Saylor in 1985
Most Admired Person: Father
Personal: Married, three daughters

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.