Big Shots: Tim Leiweke


In the seventh episode of “Big Shots With Giselle Fernandez,” our video series featuring business leaders and culture shapers from around the globe, Fernandez sits down for an exclusive and candid interview with Tim Leiweke, the current president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in Toronto, Canada and the former president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment and real estate juggernaut better known to Angelenos simply as AEG. (The company has ownership interests in the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Galaxy, and the Los Angeles Kings in addition to other holdings.)

Five months after abruptly leaving AEG, Leiweke, who lost an estimated 50 pounds during that time, says he wants to set the record straight, and he reflects openly—and publicly for the first time—with Fernandez about the end of his nearly 20-year relationship with Philip Anschutz, what he sees as L.A.’s strengths and weaknesses, why he’s still rooting for an NFL team to move here, his devotion (past and present) to the Los Angeles Kings, what he sees as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s most important opportunity, and how his surprising move to Canada has changed his outlook on business and life. 

Here are some excerpts from their conversation:

Leiweke on his working relationship with Phil Anschutz:
“I always understood it was [Anschutz’s] company and his money, and he always understood that in order to grow a company you needed a CEO that was out front and public…. He’s a very quiet, private man and I respected that about him. And he respected the fact that in L.A. if you are quiet, you probably die. And so we had to be aggressive in our vision and trying to fight to do the things that we were trying to do here.” 

Leiweke on his abrupt exit from AEG:
“We tried to sell the company and I knew the minute we got in that process if that didn’t end well then I’d want to move on and that’s what happened.”

“We wish each other well. I cheer them on. They’re my second favorite hockey team, my second favorite basketball team, and my second favorite soccer team. We do concerts in our building together. And so we’ll continue to have a relationship and there will be no animosity and we move on. Life’s too short for that.”

Leiweke on what he regrets about his time with AEG:
“Not getting in the NFL. You know a lot of people put their necks on the line for that vision. Whether it be Governor Brown or Mayor Villaraigosa at the time or Councilperson Perry or Maria Elena Durazo from a union standpoint. Community activists. We had pretty much consensus, and as we all know in L.A., that never happens. And so, to get that many people to buy into the vision, to get that close to trying to finalize it— “

“Being in a situation where we didn’t finish everything we wanted to finish in L.A. humbles you because you feel like you let some people down. And I do feel like I’ve let some people down.”

Leiweke on what he perceives will be Mayor Eric Garcetti’s greatest challenge:
“I think Eric is going to have to find the balance between sticking his neck out there occasionally, making tough decisions, and supporting things that are going to have to create jobs. Even if not everyone’s on the same page. The airport’s a great example. They’ve gotta fix the airport.” 

Leiweke on his next chapter:
“I always tell people I’m fairly certain my best days are still ahead of me. I think we all have that within our control. And I don’t think, to me, this is anything more than just a part of my life. It definitely is not the end. And I don’t think it will be my greatest moment.” 

Leiweke on the relevance of L.A.’s Hispanic demographic:
“Anyone that has vision understands the future of this city is the Hispanic marketplace. That’s why we were always bullish on soccer and the Galaxy. People took that to mean we had to get a great Mexican player or a great Central American player and what they didn’t understand is that the true Hispanic fans that like soccer just wanted to see great soccer.”

Watch the interview:

Previously on Big Shots:
Big Shots: Deborah Borda
Big Shots: Dr. Cheryl Saban

Big Shots: Piolín
Big Shots: Vicente Fox
Big Shots: David Rubenstein

Big Shots: Carlos Slim