Tim Leiweke

Anschutz Entertainment Group President and CEO Tim Leiweke at the event announcing the Farmers Field naming right deal. Today he said he expects an AEG sale to be complete by March.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — The decision to sell Anschutz Entertainment Group only came a few weeks ago, the company’s president and CEO said this morning. Continuing on the speedy timeframe, the deal to sell off the behemoth is expected to be complete before National Football League owners hold their meetings in March.

The revelations from Tim Leiweke came shortly after the City Council’s Ad Hoc Stadium Committee voted unanimously in favor of approving the environmental documents and development agreements for the $1.4 billion project that includes building Farmers Field and reconfiguring the Convention Center. The full council is expected to take up the issue on Friday.

Speaking to the media after the vote, Leiweke said that company owner Phil Anschutz began entertaining the idea of selling AEG over the summer, after the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup. He said that the company’s senior executives learned at a recent retreat that Anschutz, a Denver-based billionaire, would indeed go that route.

Leiweke sought to describe the decision as inevitable, and predicted it would ease the process of attracting a football team to Downtown Los Angeles. He said that having an owner who will be committed to football and the city for the next two decades is something the NFL wants.

“There was always going to be an exit strategy,” Leiweke said.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose Ninth District includes the Staples Center/L.A. Live campus, conceded that she was “a lot disappointed” to learn so close to the vote that Anschutz plans to sell the company. She said she continues to back the project because of her long record working with Leiweke, and for the jobs it will create.

Plans call for tearing down the aged West Hall of the Convention Center and building a 68,000-seat stadium in its place. A new convention facility would be contiguous to the main Convention Center, allowing Los Angeles to go after larger conventions than it can now secure.

Leiweke said AEG has already sunk $50 million into the effort to bring football back to L.A.

Anschutz recently hired New York consulting firm the Blackstone Group to solicit bids, and Leiweke said they have already been approached by “dozens” of interested entities. He said the process will involve looking at the bidders, cutting them down to a small number, and having one or two finalists by the end of the year. He said he expects a deal to close by March.

He would not reveal a sales price, though noted that media reports have put the value of the company at between $7 billion and $15 billion.

Leiweke and several other senior AEG officials all recently signed long-term extensions that he said will keep them with the company until the opening of a stadium. While he conceded that a new owner could fire him, he considers it unlikely.

“It would certainly take a lot of the value of the company away,” he said.

Leiweke said the goal remains to secure a team early next year and open Farmers Field in 2017.

Contact Jon Regardie at regardie@downtownnews.com.

Copyright 2012 Los Angeles Downtown News.