Los Angeles Kings Hockey Club
He would never say so himself, but the fate of downtown Los Angeles may be resting in the hands of Tim Leiweke.
That’s because business leaders are counting on a new sports arena to revitalize the struggling downtown area and Leiweke is the guy in charge of getting the arena up and running.
“This is truly going to be an arena for the 21st century,” says Leiweke. “This is going to be the home for the Kings and the Lakers, and it’s just an exciting time for downtown Los Angeles and for me.”
Getting the facility in place is only one of Leiweke’s jobs. He also is president of the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team, where his mission is to bring a Stanley Cup to Los Angeles.
How does one get to be president of a major professional sports franchise? For Leiweke, it was a roundabout path.
He skipped college and held a variety of odd jobs before becoming a junior executive with a Missouri-based insurance company. In 1979, he agreed to become assistant general manager of the St. Louis Steams of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
“I knew the owners, and they convinced me to take a one year sabbatical from the insurance company to help run the new team,” he said. “The team did so well and the industry grew on me that I just never got out.”
He had several sports related positions including president of the U.S. Ski Team before landing a job as president of the Denver Nuggets basketball team. The opportunity to head an NBA team was his best job to date, Leiweke said.
While with the Nuggets, Leiweke was in charge of assembling investors to build a new arena in Denver. Among those he called: Philip Anschutz.
That deal which would have made Anschutz part owner in what is now called the Pepsi Dome fell apart. Anschutz walked, and later went on to purchase the L.A. Kings with partner Ed Roski Jr.
When it came time to find a president for his new team, Anschutz gave Leiweke a call.
“I thought of this job as a real challenge,” says Leiweke. “This one is harder, it is a tougher market and a more difficult task for me. If we indeed turn this one around, it will be the biggest challenge of my professional career.”
He had been spending off-season time to promote the new sports arena, which still must be approved by the L.A. City Council. The 20,000-seat, $250 million arena would be developed by Roski and Anschutz.
John Semcken, one of the chief negotiators on behalf of the developer, says Leiweke is “one of the most suitable guys I know for the job.”
“Tim brings in a lot of new ideas that we probably wouldn’t have had before a lot of enthusiasm for the job,” he said.
Leiweke pinpoints his work ethic to experiences while growing up. As a young adult, his mother fought cancer for five years which is one reason he never attended college.
“Right up until the end, everyday she did something she got up, she tried to walk she fought it all the way,” he says. “That’s where I learned about work.”
Joe Bel Bruno