Family-film venture by Anschutz, Murdoch marks pair's latest
power-pact episode in long-running series
By Tom McGhee,
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
An agreement between Denver financier Philip Anschutz's
Walden Media, maker of "The Chronicles of Narnia" movies,
and media titan Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to jointly
develop family films isn't the first deal cut by this power
Over the years, the Australian media mogul and Anschutz have
partnered in deals including ownership of the Staples Center
in Los Angeles and a now-dissolved sports-marketing venture,
Fox Sports One.
The latest agreement, announced last week, gives News
Corp.'s Fox Filmed Entertainment first rights to future
"They have done deals before which seemed to work out for
everybody, so why not do another one?" media-industry
analyst Dennis McAlpine asked.
Both men dwell in rarified social strata occupied by a small
number of business titans. They both attended the recent
annual Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, a
soiree that attracted 18 billionaires with a combined net
worth of $140 billion.
"When you go out to Sun Valley, you play with the same
people," McAlpine said. "They do get to run in the same
circles a lot."
The two men rank among the world's richest people. Forbes
pegged Murdoch as the 84th-richest person, with $6.5
billion, and Anschutz as the 89th-richest, with $6.4
Anschutz has ownership stakes in movie-theater chain Regal
Entertainment, movie-production companies Walden and Bristol
Bay Productions, the Staples Center, the Home Depot Center,
the Los Angeles Lakers and other sports teams.
Murdoch, who sold a controlling interest in the Los Angeles
Dodgers in 2004, has a media conglomerate that includes Fox
Sports Net and Direc TV.
In 1998, Anschutz enlisted Murdoch to buy into his Staples
Center sports and entertainment venue in Los Angeles. As
part of the agreement, News Corp. bought options for
minority stakes in both the Lakers and the Los Angeles
News Corp. never exercised that option.
The two also combined to form Fox Sports One, a
sports-marketing venture, to sell sponsorships to sports
arenas and teams. They later dissolved the venture.
In 1998, some noted the natural business fit of their
"More and more, we'll be seeing ways for the two to work
together," then-Kings president Timothy Leiweke said.
Leiweke is now president of AEG, Anschutz's entertainment
In 2004, Fox Entertainment Group, which is largely owned by
Murdoch's News Corp., sold its share in the Staples Center
back to AEG for $128 million.
Murdoch held a 40 percent interest in LA Live, an Anschutz
project to develop the area around the Staples Center. AEG
bought the interest back last year for an undisclosed
In 2004, Fox paid $25 million for a 10 percent interest in
an affiliate of AEG that has rights to develop and operate
an entertainment and sports complex at the Millennium Dome
The intersections between the men aren't confined to
dealmaking. British media outlets have reported that AEG
employs Murdoch's son-in-law Matthew Freud, a
public-relations executive with connections in the British
government, as a strategic consultant.
Freud set up a dinner meeting between An schutz and Culture
Secretary Tessa Jowell, whose agency will have a say in
whether a casino is built at the Dome, according to the
"I attended a dinner at which Philip Anschutz was a guest.
He certainly talked to me about casinos but got absolutely
no information that was not freely available in the
newspapers," the Daily Mail quoted Jowell as saying.
Anschutz spokesman Jim Monaghan said he couldn't comment on
the report or on the relationship between Anschutz and
Murdoch. No one from News Corp. returned calls for comment.
Former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer is a friend of Anschutz and
knows Murdoch. Romer, who for the past six years has served
as the superintendent of the Los Angeles school district,
said the two men, and the businesses they run, are
compatible in many ways.
"They're both very creative, very skilled, and they are both
operating in a sphere that is multidimensional, with
entertainment, recreation, a number of enterprises," he
said. "These are two guys that probably can deal and
partner very easily."
Staff writer Tom McGhee
can be reached at 303-820-1671 or