Tim Leiweke is vowing to fight on after facing a significant defeat in his attempt to manage the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. After a string of victories in Seattle, Las Vegas, New York and beyond, Oak View Group’s stinging rebuke by the LA Parks and Rec Department over their proposal to challenge SMG’s RFP to operate the Greek Theatre lit a fire in Leiweke, who’s already planning his next move.
That could include directly lobbying the LA City Council and launching a campaign to question SMG’s stewardship of the building in the three years it has operated the 5,700-seat Hollywood amphitheater as an open venue, including presenting “shocking” pictures about “the current state of the venue.”
On Friday (April 29) SMG won a key endorsement from LA Rec and Parks for its plan to renew the contract to operate the Greek Theatre for another ten years. The loss rattled OVG, which put together a star-studded RFP that included endorsements from Magic Johnson, CAA’s Rob Light, manager Scooter Braun, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis (who signed on to create a menu for the Greek with the help of Legends Hospitality). Ultimately, OVG’s glossy 260-page RFP for the Greek was rejected by Rec and Parks staff who preferred SMG’s plan, which would commit more money to the building and mean more revenue for the city, Rec and Park staff argued.
Less than a day after the rebuke, Leiweke was defiant, saying he would fight the SMG renewal when it reached City Hall.
“We are focused on the council,” Leiweke told Amplify, saying “we always knew this was a long shot, but it’s not done.”
Now that Rec and Park’s staff have made the recommendation to renew SMG’s contract, the RFP goes before the department’s board of directors, which could approve the plan as soon as Wednesday (May 2). From there it would go to City Attorney Mike Feuer and then eventually to a committee within the city council, before going before the full council for a final vote.
Leiweke says he plans to challenge the scoring of the report (92.3 points for SMG vs 78.3 points for OVG) arguing that OVG’s proposal guarantees more money for the city than SMG’s proposal, although city officials argue that SMG’s plan is more detailed and has the long-term potential to make more money for the city over the first five-year contract term and an additional five-year renewal.
The OVG plan guarantees about $7 million a year for the city, and OVG “offered to prepay some of ours as an advance,” Leiweke said. There was also a concern that the city stacked the deck for SMG in the way the RFP for the Greek was written, requiring applicants to have been in business for 20 years with at least 10 building clients under management.
Leiweke believed he met those requirements — while OVG has only been in business for three years, he has decades of experience including his run as CEO of AEG, as well as the long careers of his partners on the project Irving Azoff and James Dolan. They also have the prerequisite number of buildings under management if you combine the facilities MSG manages with those operated by Pinnacle, which OVG bought last year.
City officials didn’t challenge OVG’s qualifications to manage the Greek, but instead argued that SMG’s RFP was more in-depth and likely to achieve the city’s revenue goals.
“Over the proposed full, five-year term, based on the projections provided by SMG in its RFP response, SMG’s proposal could generate more net revenue than would be generated under OVG’s proposal,” the report reads. “Without the benefit of any OVG projections for sponsorship and premium seating sales, it is unknown whether net revenue under OVG’s proposal would be greater than the net revenue generated under SMG’s proposal.”
Despite the risks of alienating SMG and even souring the relationship with Rec and Parks, Leiweke plans to forge ahead with his challenge of the department’s plan to renew SMG’s contract, saying he’s not afraid to face battles, like he did in Seattle for the KeyArena contract where he fended off a rival bid from incumbent AEG, a competing proposal from Chris Hansen and faced the loss of a key ally, Mayor Ed Murray, due to a sex scandal.
And yet, somehow, Leiweke still managed to win the contract to redevelop KeyArena and potentially bring professional hockey to the Pacific Northwest. As anyone who’s followed Leiweke’s career knows, when he’s up against the wall, he’s usually at his best.