As chief executive of Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc., Tim Leiweke travels the globe as the public face of a sports and entertainment empire owned by Philip Anschutz, the reclusive Denver billionaire. Leiweke engineered the deal that brought David Beckham to Los Angeles. He is also booking NBA exhibition games in China. And he worked on the takeover of O2, a money-losing stadium complex in London. AEG's holdings include the L.A. Galaxy soccer franchise, Los Angeles Kings hockey team and a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, he continues to oversee construction of LA Live, a $2.5 billion project next to the Staples Center, an AEG facility. AEG also owns the Home Depot Center in Carson, the Amgen Tour of California cycling race and the AEG Live event promotion subsidiary. Leiweke met with the Business Journal at his office at AEG headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, which has a panoramic view of the LA Live development.

Question: If you weren't in your current job, where would you be?

Answer: Who knows? I might be in political office. I think we're put here on Earth once. If that's the case, you try to make the most of your potential. My brother and I watched our mom die of cancer. That experience meant we both came out with a very strong passion to make the most of our lives. We owe that to ourselves.

Q: Do you regret leaving school?

A: People are taught in different ways. Some go to school. We were given a painful yet astonishing gift. Through death, our mother taught us more than we could have ever learned in college.

Q: How did you get into big league sports?

A: I was hired by the Timberwolves, an NBA expansion team in Minnesota. From there, I went to the Denver Nuggets basketball team and helped design and build the Pepsi Center for the team.

Q: How did you meet Phil Anschutz?

A: We bought land from Phil to build the Pepsi Center. I always told him that he got the better end of me on that deal. He told me that I got the better end of him. So I convinced him to be our partner on the construction and in the hockey team that became the Colorado Avalanche. Then his other partners bought Phil out. I had to make a decision. That was the turning point my decision to go with Phil and come to L.A.

Q: Many executives dream of a career in sports. What is your advice to them?

A: People think it's glamorous. It's not. They'll be shocked to learn we spend 5 or 10 percent of our time on sports and 90 percent on business.

Q: But you deal with star athletes, don't you?

A: We own more sports team than anyone in the world. Eight NBA teams play in facilities owned or operated by AEG. That's all exciting, but sports is like any other business. You get up early and work hard and do more than talk to Kobe. I haven't talked to Kobe lately. I try to stay out of his way.

Q: How much involvement do you have with the teams?

A: I haven't been to the Lakers training center, the Toyota Center, in months. I occasionally talk to General Manager Mitch Kupchak to see if they need help. I talk to Kings Coach Dean Lombardi two or three times a week. I haven't talked to Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena since the day we hired him. We tend to give our teams the ability to operate on their own. We don't have to be jocks, but we demand excellence in everything we do, including our sports teams.

Q: What do you do when a team is playing poorly?

A: Well, we've won more MLS championships than anybody. We've had a pretty good run with the Lakers, and while we attribute all of that success to Doc Buss, he would admit that we set the table by moving the team into the Staples Center. We're extremely committed to a philosophy of hiring the right people and getting out of their way.

Q: Does that apply to hockey, too?

A: I believe the Kings are going to have a very good run in the very near future with this young team. And I will enjoy that the most, because people doubt our passion for the hockey team. That will be our crowning achievement, winning the Stanley Cup. And we will win it.

Q: Is there a strategy behind that statement?

A: I can absolutely guarantee you and yes, it's a guarantee this young team within two years will be the dominant team in the NHL Western Conference. I know we suck, but you have to trust us. This nucleus of young kids in two years will be the envy of the league. And we'll keep them together because we have enough money.

Q: What was your first job?

A: I had a bakery job at 4 in the morning, then a shift at a deli, then I went to college at night.

Q: Where?

A: A community college in St. Louis. I was working two jobs because of the death of my mother. Both my brother and I were thrown into the work world quickly and had to fend for ourselves.

Q: How did you move from food service to sports management?

A: When I made the jump into a professional career, it was selling life insurance. I did well with the financial planning and insurance thing, but by the third year, an opportunity came along to become the assistant general manager of an indoor soccer team in St. Louis. I was 22 at the time.

Q: What team was it?

A: The St. Louis Steamers. About a week before the season started, the general manager quit so I stepped in and became the head business guy. We had an incredible first year. We outdrew the hockey team, the Blues, and became the sensation of sports in St. Louis.

Q: Walk us through a typical day.

A: Yesterday I left my house at 6:55 a.m., had a breakfast meeting downtown at 7:30. During the day I had about nine meetings. I went to the construction site, thanked all the workers and had a lunch for them. I had a dinner last night and walked into my house at 10:30 p.m. A lot of meetings trying to stretch as much as I can into the day. That's a pretty typical day when I'm in town, but I spend half my life on the road.

Q: Where do you go?

A: China, London, Berlin, Dubai. We're a development company. We have projects nearly complete both here and in Berlin, and it's important for us to put new projects in the pipeline. So we're looking for new entertainment districts, new arenas and new parts of the world that need sports and music. We're trying to find the next great project after the O2 in London or LA Live.

Q: Tell us about AEG's interest in China.

A: It's the best and most important growth market in the world. We now have an investment in the Wukesong Arena, where the basketball games for the Olympics were played. We are on the verge of announcing a lot of other things in China, but we're waiting to get past the Olympics and Para-Olympics. In October our vision for China will become clear.

Q: How do you plan to develop the Chinese market?

A: Beijing is pretty mature now, but there are small cities in China with 8 million people. People need to understand that in China, there are 50 cities with the population of Chicago or bigger. And at 1.3 billion people, they're four times larger than the United States.

Q: What's it like to work for Phil Anschutz?

A: It's easy because he lets us do our thing. He treats us as if he were an investor, not a day-to-day manager. He truly views this as a structure where we have a board. He's chairman of that board. I report to that board, but it's not a day-to-day situation. To a large extent, AEG is a stand-alone company now.

Q: How often do you interact with him?

A: He let's us go out and fend for ourselves, good or bad. That doesn't mean I don't talk to him every day, I do. I have great respect for his instincts, his gut and his experience.

Q: Would you say he's an active investor?

A: The man has an enormous amount of money and risk tied up in this company. So it's unique. We're acting like a public company. I'm beholden to the stockholders and in this case, we have one really big stockholder.

Q: You have other stockholders?

A: In some of our projects, we have partners. In the case of the LA Live hotel, McFarlane is a partner. In Staples Center, Ed Roski owns a piece of it. In London, News Corp. is a partner. So we have other investors and I feel as accountable to them as I am to Phil. In the case of News Corp., we're just as focused on trying to get Rupert Murdoch and Peter Chernin a return on their investment as we are for Phil.

Q: Most sports executives move around a lot. Why did you stay in L.A.?

A: I've been here 14 years. I've never stayed anywhere this long. But I used to move up to challenges by moving; now I have challenges within the company. AEG started with 40 employees; now we have 15,000.

Q: What's your crowning achievement?

A: It hasn't happened yet. I'm still young in terms of a corporate career. AEG is a very young company. Our best days are ahead of us. We're very proud of the O2 in London. We're proud of what we're building in Los Angeles. We are building iconic properties on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. What drives me is getting a good return on investment for Phil and the other investors.

Q: What do you see for the future of Los Angeles?

A: In every sector of the economy we're under siege. We're not Silicon Valley. We're certainly not the largest manufacturing capital in the world. So Los Angeles has to define itself. The Ritz-Carlton hotel at LA Live is a classic example of L.A. returning to what L.A. was. I wouldn't call it the Wild West, but it certainly has an entrepreneurial spirit.

Q: How so?

A: We need to get back to being the entrepreneurial state, city and capital that we were. This is where movies, music and fashion were created. L.A. has to get back to that entrepreneurial spirit. That's what L.A. Live is. It's a big bet that L.A. should be front and center for tourism, conventions and trade. And in the eyes of the world, L.A. should be the port of entry to the United States for Asia. It should not be Seattle, Vancouver or San Francisco. It has to be L.A.

Q: Who are your sports heroes?

A: I'm more interested in the kind of human being they are off the pitch.

Q: Like who?

A: Steve Nash, because of his character. Derek Fisher. You never hear crazy stuff about Derek great father, great husband, great teammate. This guy down the street USC Coach Pete Carroll is unbelievable. This community is blessed to have a guy like that. That's the best part of our job dealing with people like that.

Q: What are your favorite teams in sports history?

A: I grew up watching the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960s. The best players were Bob Gibson, Curt Flood and Lou Brock minority players at a time when that was revolutionary. I had great admiration for the chemistry and camaraderie of those teams.

Q: What's the best part of your job?

A: Going home to my wife and daughter.

Timothy J. Leiweke

Title: Chief Executive Officer

Company: Anschutz Entertainment Group

Born: 1957; St. Louis

Education: Attended night courses at community college in St. Louis

Career Turning Point: Coming to Los Angeles to run AEG in 1996

Most Influential People: Bill Comfort, who got him his first job selling insurance for New England Life; Bill Daniels, cable TV pioneer who taught him about media; billionaire Philip Anschutz, who hired him to run AEG

Personal: Lives in Brentwood with wife and one daughter; his brother Tod manages the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen

Hobbies: Vacations at family cabin in the Colorado Rockies

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