tabs take aim at Anschutz
Denver billionaire's secret sessions with official drawing
By Joyzelle Davis
Rocky Mountain News
Thursday, July 6, 2006
Phil Anschutz has been called a lot of things. Reclusive
Denver billionaire. Movie magnate. Oil and railroad
And now, "American gambling boss."
That's what the British tabloids were saying after it was
discovered embattled U.K. Deputy Prime Minister John
Prescott met with Anschutz at least seven times -- including
a July 2005 stay at Anschutz's Eagle's Nest Ranch near
Greeley -- without disclosing it.
That sparked a firestorm in Britain because the
Anschutz-managed Millennium Dome is in the running for a
regional casino license. Prescott, in charge of
rejuvenating the area around the dome at the time of the
visits, was criticized by opposition politicians for keeping
the meetings secret.
Prescott's meetings with Anschutz came to light this week
after a Freedom of Information Act request by political
Prescott insists he has no role in deciding the future of
the dome and said he never discussed casino licenses during
his visits with Anschutz.
Their discussions largely concerned the running of a large
ranch and William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery,
Prescott said in a letter.
Wilberforce was born in Prescott's Hull constituency, and
Anschutz's film company is working on a movie about the 18th
century British anti-slavery pioneer, titled
Jim Monaghan, a spokesman for Anschutz, declined to comment.
Prescott has been the subject of controversy for months,
particularly after his diary secretary in May disclosed a
two-year affair with the 68-year-old politician. The week's
articles about Prescott's visits with Anschutz have been
accompanied by reports of other alleged affairs and a visit
to an Australian casino.
The spotlight shift onto Anschutz sparked a round of "Who is
Phil Anschutz?" articles in the British press, where the
Qwest founder is best known for his enthusiasm for soccer
and acquiring a lease to manage the Millennium Dome in 2004.
The British government spent $1 billion building the
futuristic exhibit hall on the banks of the Thames River to
celebrate the 21st century, and it quickly was declared a
white elephant and shuttered by the end of 2000.
Anschutz Entertainment has set out an ambitious plan to
redevelop the moldering site, including plans for a
23,000-seat arena slated to open next year. South African
billionaire Sol Kerzner is spearheading plans to build a Las
Vegas-style casino within the dome, but Kerzner is one of
several parties vying for a single casino permit that would
allow the payouts of unlimited prize money.
The British press, more freewheeling than its American
counterpart, had much to say about the camaraderie between
Prescott, a Labour Party leader, and Anschutz, ranked by
Forbes as the world's 89th richest person, with $6.4
"What is it that Philip Anschutz finds so attractive about
New Labour politicians? There can't be many right-wing
Republican, anti-gay billionaires who would care to spend
time with the likes of John Prescott and Tessa Jowell,"
pondered The Evening
Among other descriptions of Anschutz:
described him as "a friend of George W. Bush and a donor to
the Republicans" as well as "a devoted churchgoer who rarely
drinks and gets up at 4:30 a.m."
The Daily Mail
called Anschutz "an American gambling boss."
Prescott isn't the first prominent visitor to Anschutz's
Eagle's Nest ranch.
The 32,000-acre estate reportedly includes a nine-hole golf
course, trout stream, skeet shooting, cattle ranch and
enough room to sleep the entire Los Angeles Kings hockey
team, which Anschutz owns.
Eagle's Nest isn't to be confused with Anschutz's
300,000-acre Wyoming ranch, which he has for sale for $47.5