Anschutz speaks through corporate, nonprofit, global messages

MEDIA SUMMITYou probably never have spoken to Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz — but chances are, he’s spoken to you.

His Foundation for a Better Life sends inspirational messages that reach more than a billion people every year — billboards, television commercials and digital messages at stadiums, arenas and convention centers.

His movies send a similar message. Anschutz has produced and paid for a biopic of Ray Charles’ life, the feel-good movie “Because of Winn Dixie” and the Christian-themed “Narnia Chronicles.” Through Walden Media, Anschutz Entertainment Group has produced films like “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “Nim’s Island” and “Charlotte’s Web.” And Walden Pond Books has published 20 books, including the “Comeback Kids” series and “The White Giraffe.”

Anecdotes show that Anschutz isn’t much involved in the movie-making, but he does insist on one thing — no cursing in the movies. Despite obvious frustration from directors and actors about the edict, Anschutz refuses to budge.

His messaging is clear: wholesome, inspirational, family-friendly entertainment.

But his reach doesn’t stop there.

Anschutz isn’t shouting “You’re fired!” in Donald Trump style, but the Colorado-based magnate with a reputation for being media-shy is making sure that his view of the world is seen and heard throughout various media models — even without his name attached to it.

He also has a strong philanthropic commitment — funding Denver’s Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and the ambitious Anschutz campus at the University of Colorado Hospital.

And he has a fiercely conservative philosophy. The University of Kansas graduate works to promote conservative values, giving money in the early 1990s to the controversial Amendment 2 to the Colorado state constitution, and contributing to campaigns of state and national Republicans.

He owns Clarity Media, which in turn operates the conservative-bent Weekly Standard, San Francisco Examiner, Washington Examiner, and here in Colorado Springs, The Gazette.

Media giant

Even if you ignore the politics and the family-values messaging, chances are you’ve been influenced by Anschutz’ media holdings in some other way.

When you go to the movies, and sit through the “First Look” show that’s on before the trailers — that’s Anschutz. The movie theater itself might belong to Anschutz. He owns more than half of the largest movie distribution company in the United States — a chain made up of Regal Cinemas, United Artist Theatres and Edwards Theatres, all of which were once bankrupt and now operate more than 67,000 screens in 39 states.

And if you go to a concert or sporting event, chances are his companies are involved in the facility. He owns the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., the convention center in Birmingham, Ala., and the Staples Center in Los Angeles. He owns facilities in Stockholm and London, in Sydney, Shanghai and Beijing. In fact, Anschutz owns stadiums, arenas and convention halls on five continents.

“We’ve built more stadiums and arenas than anyone, ever — including the Romans,” Anschutz has said.

He’s created entire entertainment districts, like L.A. Live in California and O2 in London, which he claims to be the most-visited entertainment arena in the world. The Staples Center in Los Angeles is “the most profitable building in the world,” he says.

If you like pop or country music, there’s a strong chance that Anschutz has been involved in some way. Anschutz Entertainment Group manages and promotes concert tours for pop stars like Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber and Carrie Underwood, and for rock bands Motley Crue and Guns N Roses. He even paid Celine Dion $150 million to sing “in residence” for five years in Las Vegas, selling out more than 700 shows. Anschutz is reported to have attended 35 of those shows.

AEG also puts on six music festivals, including the New Orleans Jazz Festival and the Coachella Music Festival in California.

Major professional sports franchises in hockey, soccer and basketball also are part of his entertainment kingdom, bringing more chances for people to see his messages. Anschutz owns five soccer teams, including the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo. He even owns a soccer team in Sweden and seven hockey teams, including the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings. He has a stake in the basketball L.A. Lakers.

And soon, he might even have a share of an NFL team — or at least host one at a stadium in downtown Los Angeles. Toward that end, Anschutz is the strongest force in the campaign to bring the NFL presence back to L.A.

Anschutz has a presence in the U.S. Olympic movement. AEG developed and operated the StubHub center, a $150 million national training center in California that features elite facilities for soccer, tennis, track and field, track cycling and other sports. It’s one of the U.S. Olympic training sites.

The great outdoors

More like J.P. Morgan than Henry Ford, Anschutz doesn’t keep all his financial eggs in a single industry basket. He seems to have the Midas Touch in everything from oil to railroads, from agriculture to tourism.

And like everything else, he turns already-profitable businesses into even more successful ventures. He bought Xanterra, the largest national park concessionaire in the United States, and increased its profits by 50 percent within three years. And then he purchased a series of cruise ships, a hotel in Arizona and a bicycle tour company to expand its holdings. He also purchased the Kingsmill Resort, located near Williamsburg, Va.

Xanterra was already large — it owns the lodging and concessions at the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Yellowstone national parks. He owns the Grand Canyon Railway and has steered the company toward efforts to preserve natural resources. An oilman who’s the son of an oilman, Anschutz is watching as Xanterra experiments with alternative fuels and recycling.

More recently, Anschutz has purchased The Broadmoor hotel, the five-diamond luxury resort he visited as a child, along with the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. He reportedly spends much of his time now living in one of The Broadmoor’s palatial suites.

Oil, gas and railroads

Anschutz seems to have an eye on industry trends, whether it’s investing in fiber-optics in the 1990s or in wind energy in 2013. He knows when to hold ’em — and when to fold ’em.

Through the Anschutz Exploration Corp., he owns active oil and gas projects in Wyoming, Colorado, New York and Texas.

Recently, Anschutz had his biggest payday — receiving about $3 billion for oil and gas property in the Marcellus Shale of the northeast United States and the Bakken Shale of North Dakota. He also sold his holdings in the Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota to a Canadian oil company for $115 million.

He became a railroad baron, as well as an oil baron, in 1984 when he purchased the Rio Grande Railroad. Four years later, he bought the Southern Pacific and then merged it with the Union Pacific. He’s the largest shareholder in the railroad, with a 6 percent stake.

The interests of the richest man in Colorado Springs are so varied, it’s hard to make a complete list of the private businesses in which he has a stake. He owns all or part of more than 150 companies, and appears to be expanding his empire with nearly every transaction.

And he seems to be a pretty hands-on kind of guy, as well. One worker at The Broadmoor reports that he’s seen Anschutz at 5:30 a.m., passing out doughnuts to hard-working employees.

And if they aren’t working hard?

“Well, then, that’s bad for them,” the employee said. “Mr. Anschutz expects you to work.” n CSBJ

Philip Frederick Anschutz

He was born Dec. 28, 1939, in Russell, Kan. His father, Frederick Benjamin Anschutz, was an oil field developer and land investor who owned ranches in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Anschutz’s grandfather, Carl, was an ethnic German who emigrated from Russia, and started Farmers State Bank in Russell.

The family moved to Hays, Kan., when Philip was a child, and then to Wichita, where he graduated from high school. He got his first job at 14, because his mother thought he should earn his own money.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Kansas in 1961. He was set to go to law school at the University of Virginia, but never attended because of his father’s ill health. He took over the struggling family business – and turned it into a $10 billion fortune.

In 1965, at 24, he started The Anschutz Corp. and began expanding its holdings in oil, uranium and coal. By 1976, he owned oil fields in Montana, Texas, Colorado and Wyoming. He also bought uranium mines, coal mines and cattle ranches.

A member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, he married his childhood sweetheart, Nancy. They have three children: Sarah Anschutz Hunt, Christian Anschutz and Elizabeth Anschutz. Sarah is curator of the Anschutz Museum in Denver, while Christian is owner of the Western Development Group and vice-chairman at The Gazette. Elizabeth is active in the Anschutz Foundation.

Anschutz is well-known for his philanthropy. The family foundation, with an endowment of more than $1 billion, gives grants to orchestras, museums, churches, schools, women’s shelters, rehab clinics, Boy Scouts, Salvation Army and programs that serve the underprivileged community. They have launched public service campaigns and anonymous programs to meet emergency short-term needs of the poor, and gave millions to the University of Colorado Hospital for a medical research facility at the Aurora campus.