Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Is there an Entertainment Octopus? Partners Anschutz (Michael Jackson ®) and Kerzner (Global Gambling Oligarch)
Is there an ENTERTAINMENT “OCTOPUS”?
“Anschutz’s company, AEG, has been accused of attempting to profit from the death of Michael Jackson, who was under contract to perform at the O2 Arena.” Inheriting the casinos-and-resorts holdings of Kerzner, Colony Capital LLC now also owns Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, a future “Graceland” (tourist cash-cow).
Citizen Anschutz: How the conservative Christian head of Regal Cinemas is trying to change how you see movies
by Justin Clark
March 23, 2006
… Every stage of your moviegoing experience â€” from production to promotion to distribution to exhibition â€” is controlled by one man: 66-year-old religious conservative Philip Anschutz.
Named Fortune’s “greediest executive” in 1999, the Denver resident is a generous supporter of anti-gay-rights legislation, intelligent design, the Bush administration and efforts to sanitize television. With a net worth of $5 billion, he is Forbes ‘ thirty-fourth richest American, two spots above Revlon’s Ronald Perelman. Anschutz heads a vast media empire whose assets include the Examiner chain, twenty percent of the country’s movie screens, and a sizeable stake in Qwest Communications, the scandal-ridden telecom giant he formerly directed. (Anschutz was accused of helping falsely inflate Qwest profit reports, then making millions by selling his own shares in the company â€” a claim he ultimately settled by paying millions to charity.)
Anschutz’s stake in Hollywood has been growing since 2000, when he began buying the bankrupt Regal, Edwards and United Artists chains and founded two film studios, Walden Media and Bristol Bay. In many areas of the country, the Regal Cinemas chain is the only option for seeing first-run films. Carole Handler, a prominent Los Angeles anti-trust attorney, says this gives Anschutz considerable leverage in his latest domain of conquest. “Anschutz is the person who went and bought the theaters out of bankruptcy,” she says. “Don’t think that passed unnoticed by the studios.”
Anschutz has gained considerable power in negotiating licensing agreements with the film studios, contracts which impact everything from where a movie is played, to how long it runs, how it’s marketed, which upcoming releases are given trailer time, and how revenue is split between the studio and the theater. It is a kind of power, says Handler, that harkens back to the early days of cinema, when studios, distributors, exhibitors and even movie star magazines were concentrated into the same relatively few hands.
There’s a twist, though: Anschutz’s politics.
A heavy contributor to the Republican Party for decades, Anschutz helped fund Amendment 2, a ballot initiative to overturn a state law protecting gay rights, and helped stop another initiative promoting medical marijuana. More recently, he helped fund the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank that mounted a public relations campaign and financed “research” into Intelligent Design. He has also supported the Media Research Council, the group that generates nearly all indecency complaints with the FCC (including Janet Jackson’s now-legendary “wardrobe malfunction”).
As a friend of his told Fortune, Anschutz “has a latent interest in doing something significant in American Christianity. He is working deliberately and diligently on it.”
In 2005, PG-rated films outperformed R-rated films in the theater for the first time in two decades. Conservatives have touted weak theater attendance as proof that the heartland isn’t interested in Hollywood’s licentiousness and liberal politics. The Dove Foundation, non-profit advocates of “wholesome family entertainment”, published a study showing that G-rated movies are eleven times more profitable than R-rated flicks. Indeed: as a co-producer and financial backer of Oscar contender “Ray,” Anschutz reportedly insisted on altering the details of subject Ray Charles’ life, downplaying his drug use and womanizing to obtain a PG-13 rating.
Although Hollywood didn’t heed the Dove Foundation’s advice in 2005 â€” the key Oscar nominations were all low-grossing films that are very political â€” studios have begun looking into releasing PG versions of their R-rated fare, an innovation made possible by the advent of digital cinema. The double release would allow theaters to play the cleaner version during more lucrative screening times earlier in the day and the director’s cut later on.
Philip Frederick Anschutz (born 28 December 1939 in Russell, Kansas) is an American businessman. With an estimated current net worth of around $7.8 billion, he is ranked by Forbes as the 31st richest person in the USA.
Anschutz’s father was a land investor who invested in ranches in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and eventually went into the oil-drilling business. Anschutz’s grandfather, Carl Anschutz (born November 10, 1859, in Samara), emigrated from Russia and started the Farmers State Bank in Russell, Kansas.
Anschutz grew up in Hays, Kansas, with part of the family located in Wisconsin (the location of his father’s oil-exploration business, Circle A Drilling, where he lived near Bob Dole). In later years, Anschutz contributed to Dole’s political campaigns.
[In 1971] he acquired 9 million acres (36,000 km ²) along the Utah-Wyoming border. This produced his first fortune in the oil business. In the early 1980s, the Anschutz Ranch, with its 1 billion barrel (160,000,000 m ³) oil pocket, became the largest oil field discovery in the United States since Prudhoe Bay in Alaska in 1968. He sold a half-interest in it to Mobil Oil for $500 million in 1982.
For several years Anschutz was Colorado’s sole billionaire. With his acquisition of land in other Western states, he is thought to own more farm and cattle land than any other single private citizen in the United States.
He then moved into railroads and telecommunications before venturing into the entertainment industry. In 1999, Fortune magazine compared him to the nineteenth-century tycoon J.P. Morgan, as both men “struck it rich in a fundamentally different way: they operated across an astounding array of industries, mastering and reshaping entire economic landscapes.”
AEG & Michael Jackson at the O2 Arena
Anschutz’s company, AEG has been accused of attempting to profit from the death of Michael Jackson, who was due to perform at the Dome, now the O2 Arena in 2009/2010.
While refunds of the approximately 750,000 tickets (at £55- £75 each) are available to customers that request it, the promoter has offered to send out “souvenir” tickets providing fans of the singer waive their right to the refund.
The company estimates that between 40-50% of its customers will request the original tickets in lieu of the refund, which will save the company $40 million in refunds. This is in addition to future profits from any material that forms a part of the “This Is It” concerts – the intellectual property of AEG.
Randy Phillips, was quoted as saying: “Since he [Jackson] loved his fans in life, it is incumbent upon us to treat them with the same reverence and respect after his death.”
Anschutz’s investment in the Millennium Dome in London, (through his company Anschutz Entertainment Group who redeveloped it to The O2) has caused him to become involved in the controversies surrounding former British Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. A large part of Anschutz’s proposed investment in the Dome is conditional on the granting of a ‘super casino’ license by the British government. The controversy surrounds the extent of Prescott’s influence on this critical decision. Anschutz has met Prescott personally on several occasions since 2004, including a two-night stay at Anschutz’s ranch in 2005, footing the bill for hospitality and gifts. The emergence of this controversy in June 2006 has resulted in Anschutz cancelling a scheduled further meeting.
In January 2007, the decision on the “Super Casino” surprisingly went to a proposal in Manchester, as opposed to the apparently more likely winning bids from Blackpool and the Anschutz proposal in London. A spokesperson for Anschutz Entertainment Group advised that they would be looking into the reasons behind the decision and that the company were “taking time to examine the findings in full and considering our position”. 
The decision to have the super casino in Manchester was not a great surprise considering Anschutz invested in the city in 2004, when he spent £50m on the MEN arena and the winner of the casino licence is a close ally of Anshutz, Sol Kerzner.  
Summary of business interests
Anschutz owns or has major interests in about 100 companies, including the following:
Anschutz Entertainment Group, which has stakes in two U.S. soccer teams, including the MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo; the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings; the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs; the ECHL’s Reading Royals; the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers; Staples Center; Home Depot Center; Major League Lacrosse LA Riptide; the Swedish soccer team Hammarby IF, Swedish hockey team DjurgÃ¥rdens IF; the German ice hockey teams Hamburg Freezers and EisbÃ¤ren Berlin; and the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. In the UK they own the Manchester Evening News Arena, the London Arena, and the Millennium Dome which has been redeveloped as a multi-purpose arena under the name “The O2”.
Anschutz Film Group (reorganized Crusader Entertainment now known as Bristol Bay Productions and Walden Media). Involved in the production of the movie Atlas Shrugged, and previously involved in the production of the movie Holes in 2003 and the commercially successful The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in 2005.
Pacific Energy Group
17% stake in Qwest Communications, which became a Baby Bell upon the purchase of US West
Regal Entertainment Group, the largest movie theater chain in the world with approximately 6,000 screens. Anschutz owns more than half of the company, which is a collection of former bankrupt chains.
Union Pacific Railroad (Anschutz is the company’s largest shareholder, with a 6% stake.)
Clarity Media Group, a Denver-based Publishing Group which includes:
The San Francisco Examiner (purchased in 2004)
The Washington Examiner, which was spun off from a number of D.C. area suburban dailies.
The Baltimore Examiner, which launched in April 2006 and was shut down in early 2009. (Anschutz has trademarked the name “Examiner” in more than sixty cities.)
Examiner.com, a hyper-local web portal where citizen journalists write on local topics, from news to blog-like stories.
The Oil & Gas Asset Clearinghouse, which is an auction company designed for the Oil & Gas Business
NRC Broadcasting, which owns a string of radio stations in Colorado.
Anschutz brought David Beckham to the United States. Beckham is now employed by Galaxy Media and plays on an Anschutz-owned soccer team, Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.
The Anschutz Investment Company purchased LightEdge Solutions in February 2008. LightEdge is a business-to-business hosted services provider focused on Wide-Area-Networking, Voice-over-IP, Hosted Microsoft applications (Exchange, OCS, SharePoint), hosted servers/storage collocation cage and rackspace and Business Continuity Services.
Political and Christian activism
Anschutz, a Republican donor and supporter of George W. Bush’s administration, has been an active patron of a number of religious and conservative causes:
Helped fund Colorado’s 1992 Amendment 2, a ballot initiative designed to overturn local and state laws that prohibit discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.
Helped fund the Discovery Institute, a think tank based in Seattle, Washington that promotes intelligent design and criticizes evolution. 
Supported the Parents Television Council, a group that protests against what they believe to be television indecency.
Financed and distributed Christian films, such as Amazing Grace and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for mass audiences through his two film production companies and ownership of much of the Regal, Edwards and United Artists theater chains. In addition, as a producer Anschutz reportedly required the removal of certain material related to drug use and sex in the 2004 film Ray because he found it objectionable.
Financed The Foundation for a Better Life.
In June, 2009, reports circulated that Anschutz was on the verge of purchasing the conservative American opinion magazine The Weekly Standard from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The reports reasoned that, having purchased The Wall Street Journal in 2007, Murdoch’s interest in the smaller publication had been less forceful. For Anschutz’ part, the magazine’s editorial line would appear consonant with his political views.
The REAL winner at the supercasino
By TIM SHIPMAN, MATTHEW HICKLEY, and MICHAEL SEAMARK
Last updated at 23:25 30 January 2007
A controversial South African billionaire with close links to Labour was the big winner as Britain’s first supercasino licence was awarded to Manchester.
Sol Kerzner is poised to become the most powerful man in the British gaming industry. He can expect to earn tens of millions running the new gaming palace offering the first unlimited jackpots on British soil, along with new large casinos given the green light yesterday in Leeds and Luton.
His involvement in the winning bid led to accusations that Labour ministers have been fatally compromised by their links to foreign casino operators.
Officials from Mr Kerzner’s company have had at least 12 meetings with three different ministers and the tycoon is a key ally of Millennium Dome boss Philip Anschutz, who entertained [deputy prime minister] John Prescott at his ranch.
Critics accused Labour of betraying its anti-gambling socialist roots and – despite the furore over the Dome’s bid – continuing to ignore public anger at its links with controversial foreign businessmen.
The surprise decision in Manchester’s favour left the Government in turmoil as ministers came under overwhelming pressure to increase the number of supercasinos or face legal action from Blackpool Council and Mr Anschutz’s Dome – the two front runners for the supercasino licence.
Downing Street and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell both suggested more could be built after an assessment of the social impact of the Manchester site is completed in three years.
But they were immediately slapped down by Gordon Brown. In an astonishing rebuke, the Chancellor’s allies said that he believes Government has a “moral duty” to prevent an increase in the number of supercasinos.
They pointedly said he has refused to give in to demands from foreign casino operators – such as Mr Kerzner – to offer financial concessions to overseas investors.
An MP close to the Chancellor said: “This is not a pilot or a guinea pig or whatever you want to call it. An agreement was reached last year which reflected public concerns, and that agreement will be stuck to.
“The Government’s responsibility is to stick up for the standards, values and well being of society as a whole. It’s our moral duty as a Government to protect the wider public good.”
The announcement by the independent Casino Advisory Panel means Manchester will be entitled to open a 50,000 square foot Las-Vegas style casino in the run-down East, already home to the City of Manchester stadium. It will feature 1,250 fruit machines with jackpots that could run into millions.
Large casinos, 15,000 sq ft in size, offering 150 machines with £4,000 jackpots, will open in Leeds, Middlesbrough, Great Yarmouth, Milton Keynes, Solihull, Southampton, Newham in East London and Hull, John Prescott’s home town.
Smaller casinos, of 7,500 sq ft and 80 machines, will be built in Skegness, Bath, Stranraer, Luton, Scarborough, Swansea, Torbay and Wolverhampton.
The decision to pick Manchester ahead of the two front-runners, the Dome and Blackpool, prompted claims of meddling by ministers, who were keen to avoid further sleaze allegations about Labour’s links with Mr Anschutz.
Now ministers face claims that they did favours for Mr Kerzner, who was once accused of offering bribes to secure gaming licences in South Africa – claims he has always denied.
Manchester City Council will have to run an open competition before it awards the licence but Kerzner International is in pole position. The company has also expressed strong interest in running the new casinos in Leeds and Luton. It was also involved with Glasgow’s failed supercasino bid.
Professor Stephen Crow, chairman of the panel, denied that there had been any political interference. He said Manchester was best suited as “a good place to test the social impact” of gambling – comments which provoked complaints that a particularly poor local population will now be used as guinea pigs.
He fuelled calls for more supercasinos by agreeing that all seven shortlisted sites – which also included Cardiff, Newcastle and Sheffield – was capable of running a supercasino. “They were all good,” he said.
Tessa Jowell was forced to concede that any increase in the numbers will have to be approved by both houses of Parliament, following fury at claims that ministers might push through an expansion by the back door without a vote.
She said that monitoring of the Manchester casino – not due to open before 2008 – would take until at least the autumn of 2010. “These safeguards preclude any consideration of further casinos for a lifetime of this Parliament,” she added.
The Dome’s failure is a humiliating blow for Tony Blair, who championed the project as it turned into a disastrous white elephant. He will now leave office with its fate in doubt.
Last night the defeated Anschutz Corporation hinted at legal action against the Government. David Campbell, head of AEG Europe, said he was “very disappointed”, adding: “We are taking time to examine the findings in full and considering our position.”
The vulgar tycoon who loves boxing, blondes … and buying influence
by GEOFFREY WANSELL
Last updated at 23:03 30 January 2007
Tycoon Sol Kerzner, famous for his over-the-top casinos, with his fourth wife Heather
There could hardly be a more vulgar or notorious billionaire than South Africa-born casino magnate Sol Kerzner, now 69.
Four times married and with an appetite for expletives – he likes to begin business meetings with the delicate phrase, ‘What the f***’s going on?’ – Kerzner is famous for his passion for blondes, booze and boxing.
â€¢ Sun King takes a shine to Labour
He is also behind some of the world’s most outrageously over-the-top casinos complete with fake Mayan temples, artificial volcanoes and lagoons filled with sharks.
He created the infamous Sun City in an independent black state within South Africa, symbol of the worst excesses of that country during the apartheid years. There, white people could indulge their every whim, be it soft porn or gambling, and blacks were there only to serve them.
He has made many enemies on his way to creating a fortune estimated to exceed £100million.
Suddenly he seems to have a lot of powerful friends in Britain where he sees enormous business potential. Yet the diminutive Kerzner is hardly the sort of person one would have thought the New Labour establishment would want to welcome into its midst.
He has a record of being, shall we say, financially generous to politicians who have been in a position to help him establish his casinos in South Africa.
In the U.S. he has been investigated by the New Jersey gaming authorities who concluded that he had bribed a leading African politician – although it must be said that they decided the bribe was an “aberration” and that he had since “convincingly demonstrated good character, honesty and integrity”.
It is little short of extraordinary that a New Labour government should consider him a ‘fit and proper’ person to usher vast casinos into Britain.
But there is no denying that he has plans to spend more than £600million on three gambling palaces here. And to get an idea of what they will be like, you need to look no further than his vast £900million Atlantis Casino on the Bahamas, where according to one recent visitor you can find children of 12 playing some of the 1,200 slot machines.
Notoriously secretive about his business empire, Kerzner likes to keep outsiders guessing about how much he is worth, and where his money is.
He has houses in Chelsea, the South of France and Cape Town but he spends the vast majority of his time in the Bahamas, or visiting his nine One and Only hotels around the world.
“He’s always moving,” says one former employee, “jumping into his private jet and rushing off at a moment’s notice”.
Solomon Kerzner was born in Johannesburg on August 23 1935, the youngest of four children and only son of Russian Jewish immigrants who had arrived in the country six years earlier. He was brought up in the poverty-stricken district of Doornfontein, where he was regularly picked on and beaten up for being Jewish.
His response was to learn to box – “to beat up all the boys who beat me up”.
It was a talent which was to see him become welterweight champion at the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied accountancy. He qualified at 26 and became a junior partner in a firm of chartered accountants.
His parents, who had originally run a cafe, had graduated to a small boarding house in Durban where Kerzner used to help out. In 1964, inspired by new hotel developments in the U.S., he borrowed money from clients to build South Africa’s first five-star hotel, the Beverly Hills, in a fishing village north of Durban.
Within five years he had founded the brash Southern Sun Hotel franchise which was to grow to 31 hotels and transform the leisure industry in South Africa. The vulgarian was born.
His first marriage, to Maureen Adler, with whom he had three children – sons Howard, always known as Butch, and Brandon, who both now work with him, and a daughter, Andrea, now 44 – ended in divorce in the early 1970s.
Butch Kerzner, 40, was chief executive of Kerzner International, while his father is chairman, but was killed in an air crash in October.
Kerzner’s second marriage, to Shirley Besthier, came to an end in 1978, when she killed herself. The couple had a three-year-old son and a ten-month-old daughter at the time.
“Shirley killing herself was obviously a huge setback in my life,” he said afterwards.
“Shortly after that I threw myself into the planning of Sun City.”
It was his creation of Sun City in 1979 in the so-called independent homeland of Bophuthatswana, two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Johannesburg, which was to transform his fortune, making him “the richest man in Africa” and leading to his nickname of the Sun King.
And it was this deal which saw Kerzner first make use of his political skills, in his relationship with Lucas Mangope, leader of Bophuthatswana. He was said to be “in Kerzner’s pocket”.
There can be no denying the success of Sun City, with its simulated earthquakes and 7,000 imported trees.
Kerzner delighted in holding elaborate extravaganzas there including world heavyweight title fights and Miss World contests, and playing host to celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, as well as to countless politicians.
Not that everyone was quite so keen to accept Kerzner’s lavish hospitality. Many saw Sun City as the hideous, patronising and manipulative face of apartheid.
By 1985 his third marriage, to South Africa’s first Miss World, Anneline Kriel, was on the rocks – amidst rumours of a stormy and violent parting.
Unbowed, Kerzner celebrated his 50th birthday in August that year by chartering a Jumbo jet and flying 150 friends to Mauritius, where he had established a casino-hotel. On the flight he replaced the stewardesses with strippers.
In December 1986, Kerzner was embroiled in fresh bribery allegations, this time that he paid the then Prime Minister of Transkei, George Matanzima, to gain exclusive gaming rights there.
Documents discovered by the New Jersey gaming authorities a decade later confirmed that one of Kerzner’s companies had indeed transferred £600,000 to the trust account of a middle man “for the ultimate benefit of G Matanzima”.
Matanzima was jailed for nine years and a warrant was issued for Kerzner, but he was never to stand trial. Although Kerzner eventually admitted paying the money, he insisted that it was extorted from him.
Not long afterwards, he began to remove himself from South Africa, initially selling his hotel chain but keeping Sun City.
Kerzner settled on the Bahamas where, with backing from the Cayzer shipping family, he bought a resort on Paradise Island and started work on what was to become the uniquely graceless Atlantis resort.
It has lagoons featuring sharks, sting rays and barracudas, as well as a six-storey-high fake Mayan temple containing a 60ft water slide, not to mention 24-hour gaming halls.
A lifelong 60-a-day smoker, Kerzner had a heart attack in 1989 at the age of 54 and has not smoked since, replacing cigarettes with a now ever-present string of worry beads made out of solid gold.
But the illness didn’t slow him down, or cause him to lose his appetite for the company of beautiful young, women.
With the long-legged Californian supermodel Christina Estrada, now 39, at his side, Kerzner flew round the world in his private jet, expanding his luxury hotel chain and investing one last time in South Africa, where in 1992 he launched the equally over-the-top Lost City, complete with artificial rain forest, alongside Sun City.
But two years later, after making a secret donation of £600,000 to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party – in what one South African Minister described as an attempt to escape the attentions of the law – Kerzner severed all remaining South African connections.
With his Atlantis project in the Bahamas under way, he also targeted the U.S. and in the 1990s bought the £300million Resorts casino hotel in Atlantic City then established the £200million Mohegun Resort-Casino in Connecticut.
The loud-mouthed Kerzner had lost none of his ruthlessness. Even though he had formally proposed to Estrada, he dumped her early in 2000, and shortly afterwards married her best friend, New Yorker Heather Murphy, who was then 33, half his age.
There seems little doubt that Kerzner – “a toad, but one who’s happy about it” in the words of one City figure – will become as controversial a wealthy friend of the Labour Party as Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, and the Hinduja brothers before him.
CORRUPTION OF [TONY BLAIR’S] LABOUR PARTY: BRITAIN’S “WATERGATE”
… Anschutz is very concerned about moral issues. He is very much against sexual content in movies, the taking of soft drugs and gay rights. However, he has never showed much interest in gambling before. This is a new venture instigated by his business partner, Sol Kerzner. The media have had very little to say about Kerzner but he has an interesting background. Kerner is a white South African who made his fortune from Sun City . During 1985, Kerzner’s Sun City, South Africa resort was the topic of anti-Apartheid rock album titled Sun City by a group of rock musicians calling themselves Artists United Against Apartheid.
Kerzner then got involved in gambling. He owns the Mohegan Sun casino located in Uncasville, Connecticut. Kerzner has been investigated for corruption a number of times, none of which have resulted in a conviction.
Like Anschutz, he knows the politicians you need to keep happy.
Simon Jenkins interviewed Sol Kerzner a few months ago. Kerzner admitted that his investment in the Dome depended on winning a casino licence.
It is estimated that Kerzner, Anschutz and others wanting to win contracts to open casinos in the UK, have spent over $100m on a campaign to ope -up gambling in the country. Blair’s government was targeted as the soft moral underbelly of Europe. The industry is rightly barred from most European countries.
Despite pressure from Blair and Prescott, the Home Office refused to introduce new gambling regulations. Therefore, Blair had the good idea to move gambling legislation from the Home Office to the Culture Department. This was very convenient as Tessa Jowell, the minister concerned, was married to David Mills, a gambling political lobbyist.
It was probably Mills who arranged for Kerzner and Anschutz to meet Jowell, Richard Caborn (minister of gambling) and Gideon Hoffman, head of Whitehall’s gambling division.
One of the reasons that people like Kerzner and Anschutz are willing to pay millions corrupting our politicians and civil servants concerns the way the contracts are organized. Each contract will give the company a total monopoly in the city or town that gets it. It is indeed a licence to print money. It is also the reason why organized crime is behind these businessmen who have so far been able to use their money to keep out of prison.
There are several claims in today’s newspapers that people close to Tony Blair are briefing against John Prescott. He is unlikely to go quietly. He is already saying off the record that he was only carrying out Blair’s orders when he did his deals with Philip Anschutz.
According to Prescott, Blair became anxious when the government could not find a buyer of the £758m Millennium Dome when it closed in 2000. Blair saw the dome as a symbol of his premiership and a beacon for the redevelopment of London. As Lord James, the dome chairman, pointed out, this became a crisis when it was discovered in October, 2000, that according to the original contract, if it was not sold by November, 2000, it would have to be demolished. Blair was particularly concerned about the images of the dome being pulled down.
Prescott was ordered to use any means at his disposal to sell the dome. He did this by doing a deal with Philip Anschutz. It was the most appalling deal possible. The £758m dome was given away for nothing. His company, AEG, would turn the site into a sports and entertainment complex. The government claimed victory by arguing that they would get a share of any future profits in the venture. AEG also promised to invest £300m on developing the site. This included the building of 10,000 homes and the creation of 24,000 jobs. This deal was eventually signed in May 2002.
What the public was not told about was that Prescott had promised Anschutz and his business partner, Sol Kerzner, that London would win the 2012 Olympics bid. This would draw large crowds to the dome. As a result of this promise, Blair had to do everything possible in order to get the Olympics. It is possible that Blair was forced to resort to illegal methods ….
The second promise involved passing a law that would allow the building of supercasinos in Britain. The Home Office would not do as it was told and so the new gambling bill was given to Tessa Jowell at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). In July, 2003, AEG had its first meeting with Richard Caborn, the junior minister at DCMS, involved in drafting this new gambling bill.
According to the minutes of the meeting, AEG said it was their intention to build a massive Las Vegas style casino next to the dome. However, the problem was that this kind of casino was banned in the UK, as it is in most of Europe.
A DCMS briefing note on 20 November 2003 pointed out that Sol Kerzner had now joined forces with AEG and that he was insisting on being given permission to build a super casino in London. Two months later Prescott had a meeting with Anschutz in London. A memo sent to Lord McIntosh stated: You should be aware that John Prescott recently met Phil Anschutz. The casino is a key plank in AEG’s long-term business strategy.
In July 2004 Prescott flew to Los Angeles to have another meeting with Anschutz (at a cost to the taxpayer of £8,868). The official reason given for the trip was various regeneration, development and new urbanism site visits.
In October, 2004, Tessa Jowell published the proposed new legislation. It announced the granting of an unlimited number of licences to build and run super casinos. It was thought that if this happened, people would not notice the possible link between the selling of the dome and the building of a super casino in London.
Understandably, this proposal caused a great deal of concern. Under extreme pressure, Jowell offered to limit it to 10 super casinos.
This became an issue during the run-up to the last general election and Jowell was forced to promise that she would cut the number to one super casino. In May 2005, a short-list of 8 locations, including the dome site, was announced. This meant that several bidders were not on the list. This included Thames Gateway South Essex, who wanted to build a super casino in Southend. Rob Tinlin, chief executive of Southend Council, claimed that John Prescott had been using his influence to get the AEG bid on the short-list.
The super-casino licence will be announced later this year. If it is granted to AEG everyone will believe it is as a result of government corruption. If it is not, AEG is likely to reveal details of promises that have been made by government ministers. Anschutz might even announce who provided the £2 million loan to the Labour Party. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have got themselves into a lose-lose situation.