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The Anschutz story

Posted: Wednesday April 10, 2002 1:05 PM

Phil's soccer family

Why would one of the richest men in America, a man whose real estate and railroad and oil and telecommunications holdings run into the billions, a man who travels by private jet and owns farmlands that encompass three states, go to see the 1994 World Cup final?

He and his wife got free tickets. Phil Anschutz knows a bargain when he sees one. That is how he built his empire.


By Mike Woitalla, Soccer America

Philip Anschutz made his first fortune in the oil business. He later moved into the railroad business and made billions with his entry into telecommunications. His business interests now extend to the sports and entertainment world.

1939 - Philip F. Anschutz is born in Russell, Kan.

1961 - Graduates from the University of Kansas with degree in finance and enrolls at the University of Virginia. Aborts law school plans to enter the family business when his father, Fred, a cattleman and wildcatter whose drilling business was failing, becomes ill.

1965 - Founds The Anschutz Corporation and buys oil leases on loan.

1967 - Hits major well in Wyoming that ignites. Hires Red Adair to extinguish fires and sells filming rights for John Wayne movie, "Hellfighters," earning $100,000 to pay the fire-fighter and continue operations.

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  • Late 1970s - He and his father discover one of the nation's largest natural gas reserves beneath their land in Utah.

    1982 - Earns his first billion by selling his oil interests before global petroleum prices collapse. Invests in real estate and agriculture.

    1984 - Buys ailing Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad.

    1988 - Buys Southern Pacific Railroad, whose 18,000 miles of track are spread throughout the West and Southwest. Uses right-of-way property beside tracks to lay fiber-optic cables and forms SP Telecom.

    1991 - Lays pipeline for crude oil along tracks in Southern California.

    1992 - Forbes estimates his wealth at $2.2 billion.

    1995 - SP Telecom spins out of Southern Pacific and is renamed Qwest Communications. Anschutz and Edward P. Roski Jr. buys hockey's Los Angeles Kings for $100 million. Anschutz creates Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which also has interests in the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and hockey teams and facilities in Europe.

    Becomes a founding investor in MLS as operator of the Colorado Rapids.

    1996 - Merges Southern Pacific with Union Pacific Railroad, giving Anschutz Corp. control of 20,000 miles of track and those lines' rights-of-way.

    1997 - Qwest Communications - a data transmissions company - goes public. Anschutz retains 84 percent, increasing the value of his investment, estimated at $55 million, to $4.9 billion.

    Exercises $5 million option on an MLS team in Chicago to begin play in 1998. The Rapids reach MLS Cup, losing to D.C. United, 2-1.

    1998 - AEG breaks ground on Staples Center in Los Angeles to host Lakers, Kings, Clippers (NBA), Sparks (WNBA) and concerts.

    Anschutz buys the Los Angeles Galaxy for $26 million. The Fire wins MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup.

    1999 - Bell South buys 10 percent interest in Qwest for $3.5 billion. Anschutz is ranked fifth among the world's "working rich" at $16.5 billion by Forbes. Staples Center opens Oct. 17 with a concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

    The Galaxy reaches MLS Cup, losing to D.C. United, 2-0.

    The AEG business:
    Teams and facilities

    Kevin Payne has moved up in the American soccer hierarchy but he won't be out of sight.

    With five MLS teams in tow, AEG has hired the former D.C. United president to oversee its soccer operations.


    2000 - Qwest merges with "Baby Bell" USWest and enters into a joint venture with Dutch telecommunications company KPNQwest to build a fiber-optic, Internet-based network in Europe. Anschutz launches film production company Crusader Entertainment. His agricultural interests in Colorado, Wyoming and Texas are estimated at least 335,000 acres. Forbes reports Anschutz's worth at $18 billion.

    Chicago again reaches MLS Cup but loses to Kansas City, 1-0. The Fire takes its second U.S. Open Cup title.

    2001 - L.A. City Council approves AEG's construction of 27-acre entertainment district adjacent to Staples Center. Anschutz buys struggling and bankrupt theater companies, spending about $65 million for United Artists Theater (1,604 screens), $200 million for Edwards Theatres Circuit Inc. (708 screens) and $450 million for Regal Cinemas (4,361 screens) to gain control of one out of five movie screens in the United States.

    Takes over the operation of D.C. United in February and buys the MetroStars in November, giving him control of five MLS teams. The Galaxy loses to San Jose, 2-1, in MLS Cup but wins the U.S. Open Cup.

    2002 - Anschutz is ranked world's 54th richest person at $5.1 billion by Forbes, which attributes his drop from 16th at $15.3 billion in 2001 to Qwest's plummeting value.

    AEG exercises its option to become the D.C. United investor-operator. AEG, the Hunt Sports Group and Dentsu form Soccer United Marketing, which buys U.S. English-language TV rights for next two World Cups. AEG breaks ground on a $120 million sports complex in Carson, Calif., that will include the Galaxy's stadium and U.S. Soccer training center.

    Mike Woitalla is a senior editor at Soccer America magazine.

    Related information
    Soccer America: Phil Anschutz's soccer family
    Soccer America: AEG's teams and facilities
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