Local billionaires, major capital equity firms and even sovereign wealth funds have surfaced as potential bidders for the AEG sports and entertainment empire as the second round of bidding enters its final stages.

Los Angeles area billionaires Patrick Soon-Shiong, Ron Burkle and Tom Barrack, Guggenheim Partners, One West Bank chief executive Peter Mnuchin, Australian shopping center giant Westfield Corp. and even a Qatari sovereign wealth fund have all been mentioned in recent media reports, either solo or in partnerships.

Anschutz Entertainment Group, owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, put itself on the block last September, seeking a buyer for its venues, concert promotion business and sports teams.

The company is reportedly seeking a bid of about $10 billion, although most reports say bids are likely to fall in the $6 billion to $8 billion range. Blackstone Group, which conducted last year’s bidding for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is conducting the bidding process. The first round took place last December; the second round of bidding is expected to close this week or early next week.

AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke was quoted in Billboard Magazine last month as saying the bidding process was taking longer than anticipated because more bidders emerged than the company expected.

Billboard magazine’s website said late last week a source said three bidding partnerships were in the second round:

  • A group made up of supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, biomedical entrepreneur and L.A.’s richest man, Patrick Soon-Shiong, and Goldman Sachs.
  • Guggenheim Partners, the New York equity capital firm that won the bidding for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year and just reached an $8 billion television rights deal for the Dodgers with Time Warner Inc.
  • Colony Capital – headed by local billionaire Tom Barrack, and Qatar Sports Investment, a sovereign wealth fund with ties to the Qatari royal family.

But the website also said that other candidates were still in the running. Other media – including the Financial Times, the Sacramento Bee and the Hollywood Reporter – said that several other wealthy players were contenders. Among them: Larry Ellison, the billionaire Oracle Corp. founder; Westfield Corp., the Australian shopping center company; and Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund manager now running Pasadena’s OneWest Bank.

AEG’s assets include the Staples Center/L.A. Live entertainment center; the O2 Arena in Britain and dozens of other venues worldwide; AEG Live, the concert promotion and ticketing business; and ownership stakes in several sports teams including the Los Angeles Kings hockey franchise, the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team and the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.

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