As the Vikings continue to pursue a stadium in Arden Hills, Anschutz Entertainment Group President Tim Leiweke told the Orange County Register on Thursday night that the Vikings are one of five NFL franchises he has spoken to and that billionaire Philip Anschutz is prepared to acquire majority ownership in a team in order to bring it to Farmers Field, the downtown stadium proposed by AEG.
Leiweke confirmed for the first time Anschutz's interest in purchasing a majority share of an NFL team and told the Register he also has spoken with officials from San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis and Jacksonville.
"St. Louis, Jacksonville, not extensively, certainly Oakland, San Diego, Minnesota are still in the mix," Leiweke said. "We're not packing any [moving] vans right now."
Leiweke also revealed he last talked with an NFL team "a week ago," and the Register reported the team was believed to be the Vikings.
The interesting twist to this is that it was known Leiweke was in the Twin Cities in late May to have discussions about Target Center improvements with Minneapolis and Timberwolves officials. AEG runs Target Center.
While here, Leiweke also talked to the Vikings.
However, Vikings’ vice president Lester Bagley said at the time it was not to make a pitch to move to Los Angeles but rather to discuss the possibility of managing the potential multipurpose stadium in Arden Hills. “Our desire more than likely is to retain a third-party operator who’s motivated and has expertise in bringing events” to a new stadium, Bagley said.
Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman quoted Leiweke in May as expressing support for the Vikings’ hopes to build a stadium in Minnesota. “We’ll stay in touch with them and see what we can do to help them long-term,” he said.
Obviously, the story in Minnesota is very different than what is being circulated in Los Angeles, but as long as the Vikings are pursuing a new stadium these types of reports are going to continue. The most interesting thing from the Register might be that Anschutz would purchase a majority share of a team.
Those who know Vikings owner Zygi Wilf have said they are not sure he could ever bring himself to move the franchise if a stadium doesn't get approved. However, the feeling is that if Wilf does give up on getting a stadium -- and certainly he is hoping something gets done during a special legislative session this summer -- he might be willing to sell the club.