EXCLUSIVE-LA billionaire, Guggenheim plot AEG bid
* Soon-Shiong seeks more investors for bid group -sources
* Guggenheim won bid for the L.A. Dodgers in May
* Group will also include local investors -source
* AEG CEO to face questions from city council committee
(Adds background on Guggenheim, details on Leiweke)
By Ronald Grover and Nadia Damouni
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has joined forces with financial services firm Guggenheim Partners to make a bid for Anschutz Entertainment Group, the sports and real estate company, according to three sources with knowledge of the deal.
Soon-Shiong, whose fortune is estimated at more than $7.2 billion, is also expected to bring in additional partners to join the group, the sources said. Guggenheim recently led a local group in the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball club.
AEG's assets include the Los Angeles Kings professional hockey team, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and more than 120 sports or entertainment venues around the world.
Founded by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, AEG is close to breaking ground on a $1.2 billion football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. The project is awaiting a commitment from a National Football League team to relocate to the facility.
Soon-Shiong, an avid sports fan who owns a small piece of the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Lakers, is particularly interested in bringing a professional football team to Los Angeles, and aims to buy a team or encourage one to move so it can play in the new stadium, said one source.
None of the sources were authorized to speak publicly because the talks are private.
AEG, which is operated by its president, Tim Leiweke, said on Sept. 18 that it was exploring a sale of the company and had retained Blackstone Advisory Partners. [ID:nL1E8KJ8ZW] Blackstone is assembling a list of potential buyers and is expected to provide interested ones with financial information in the next few weeks, a person close to the bidding told Reuters last week.
Leiweke is expected to answer questions on Monday in front of a city council committee about his company's impending sale and its impact on the plan to build the NFL stadium. A spokesman for Soon-Shiong and a spokeswoman for Guggenheim had no comment. AEG's spokesman also declined to comment.
L.A.'S WEALTHIEST MAN
Soon-Shiong, a surgeon and onetime professor at UCLA's Medical School, created and sold two pharmaceutical companies for a combined $8.6 billion. He is believed to be the wealthiest person in Los Angeles, according to Forbes magazine.
This spring, Soon-Shiong and hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen were among the unsuccessful bidders for the Dodgers.
Soon-Shiong is also a 5 percent owner of the NBA's Lakers, which required him to win approval of the league. The AEG buyer will need NBA approval as well because AEG also owns a small stake in the Lakers.
Soon-Shiong intends to put together a broad group of local investors, similarly to how Guggenheim assembled its $2 billion purchase of the Dodgers in May, said one of the people familiar with his plans. That investor group included basketball great Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that Soon-Shiong attended the New York Giants-Carolina Panthers NFL game last week as a guest of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. The Panthers owner is the former chairman of the NFL’s stadium committee.
In a statement to the Times earlier in the week, a representative of Soon-Shiong wrote: “Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is keenly aware that AEG is in play. We have the utmost respect for Phil and Tim and what they have accomplished in entertainment and sports and in revitalizing the downtown community."
“We clearly are interested in furthering this legacy for Los Angeles,” the statement added.
AEG owns entertainment venues in 17 of the top 50 U.S. markets, according to its website. It owns the Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer team, possibly best-known for star David Beckham, and AEG Live, which promotes concerts and other live events.
Guggenheim has more than $160 billion in global assets under management, according to its website.
Soon-Shiong, 60, has been increasingly active in civic causes. Born in South Africa to Chinese immigrant parents, he has made large donations to two Los Angeles-area hospitals, including one to reopen the problem-plagued Martin Luther King Jr. hospital in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. His family foundation has pledged $1 billion to create a national healthcare information highway.
Last year, he founded NantWorks, a venture that aims to use ultra-low power semiconductor technology and super-computing to improve education, healthcare and other social services.
(Reporting by Ronald Grover in Los Angeles and Nadia Damouni in New York editing by Jonathan Weber, Andrew Hay and Matthew Lewis)
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