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Anschutz to stay away from British politician
Qwest founder, official are in eye of media storm
By Joyzelle Davis
Rocky Mountain News
Saturday, July 8, 2006

The hullabaloo over a series of private meetings between Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz and Britain's deputy prime minister has grown to such a pitch that U.K. officials said the Qwest founder will avoid the politician during an upcoming trip to London.  Fanned by opposition politicians and the media -- which has called Anschutz everything from a "hard-headed financial predator" to a "Christian tycoon" -- the weeklong firestorm refuses to die.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Philip Mawer's office said an investigation will be conducted into whether it was right for U.K. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to meet seven times with Anschutz, including a stay at Anchutz's Greeley area Eagle's Nest Ranch last year, and why that visit wasn't reported.  Anschutz's Millennium Dome entertainment project in London is seeking a coveted casino license from the government.

"I know there's a media storm against me," Prescott said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp.

"They don't like me, and I don't like them.  The suggestion is that my meeting with Mr. Anschutz was somehow giving him a preference for a bid.  It was not."

After the interview, a spokeswoman for Prescott told the BBC that "given the media hysteria over this last week," a planned meeting next week between the two to discuss redevelopment progress at the dome will be rescheduled.

Jim Monaghan, a spokesman for Anschutz, didn't return a call for comment.

Prescott also told the BBC that there was good reason for him to meet with Anschutz, who plans to turn the moldering Millennium Dome into a thriving events center that will generate 24,000 jobs.  Prescott added that he wanted to visit Anschutz's 32,000-acre ranch because of his love of Western movies and he has no role in granting casino licenses.

That defense didn't stop reports that claimed support for Prescott is waning within the Tony Blair administration.

The brouhaha over the visits with Anschutz is only the latest controversy for Prescott, 68, who admitted to an affair with his secretary this year.

Anschutz Entertainment Group plans to spend more than $1 billion building a theater, movie screen and restaurants at the Millennium Dome.  AEG partner Kerzner International applied for the right to build a Las Vegas-style casino on the site, and several other candidates are also vying for the license to build supercasinos elsewhere in Britain.

The Guardian newspaper and BBC disclosed documents this week that indicate Prescott's department was involved in the casino plans when the meetings with Anschutz took place, and Prescott's underlings suggested that officials in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which manages gambling policy, should meet AEG representatives.

Anschutz -- who the Daily Mirror calls "Mr. Billions" -- continued to take a pounding in the press in stories that attempted to explain how the Kansas native acquired his wealth and came to know Prescott.

The Daily Mail pointed out that Anschutz's Eagle's Nest Ranch is "a name which has uncomfortable echoes of Hitler's redoubt in Bavaria (known as Eagle's Nest)," and the Daily Express asserted that he's "a major backer of a campaign to have 'intelligent design' -- the unproven theory that the world was created by a single intelligent being -- taught in America's schools."

What they're saying

Excerpts from British tabloids' reports on Phil Anschutz and John Prescott:

The Daily Mail

You can just imagine Mr. and Mrs. Philip Anschutz drawing up the guest list.

"Honey, who shall we invite for the weekend?"

"How about that fat British politician, you know, the one who looks like Buzz Lightyear?"

"Jim Preston?"

"That's the guy, he's vice president or something, I think.  I can never understand a word he says."

"Me neither, but he does seem to be in charge of casinos in Englandland."

"Good idea. We'll put him in the Wild Bill Hickok suite."

"Not a single American businessman or local politican in Denver believes Anschutz would even take a cup of coffee with Prescott unless there was a business opportunity in it."

"Anschutz is an extraordinary, ruthless and hard-headed financial predator.  American business magazine Fortune described him as 'the greediest executive in America,' while he's also been accused of 'blatant profiteering' by New York's attorney general."

The Daily Express

"The fundamentalist Christian funds ultraconservative groups which crusade against nudity and bad language on TV and gay rights.  He's a major backer of a campaign to have 'intelligent design' -- the unproven theory that the world was created by a single intelligent being -- taught in America's schools instead of Darwin's theory of evolution."

The Independent

"John Prescott's genial host in Colorado is a billionaire conservative who has used his vast wealth and influence to promote his Christian viewpoint, to rally against gay marriage and fund an organisation that questions the theory of evolution.  He has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates.",2777,DRMN_23910_4830459,00.html