In the pursuit of the O.co Coliseum contract, entertainment and sports colossus Anschutz Entertainment Group spared little and offered a lot, including a $4.8 million in sweeteners in the proposal to run the Coliseum complex, which includes the Oracle Arena and stadium.
The efforts have paid off so far.
The Coliseum Joint Power Authority voted Friday after hearing nearly an hour of contentious, politically charged public comment to begin negotiations with AEG for a five-year contract with a five-year extension.
But the decision was close.
The eight-member Coliseum authority split 4-3 with one abstention to move forward with negotiations at the recommendation of a subcommittee made up of Commissioners Ignacio De La Fuente and Scott Haggerty, as well as three administrative members. Haggerty and Commissioners Desley Brooks, Aaron Goodwin and Mary Warren voted to move forward. That means SMG's 13 years in Oakland will come to an end July 1. The other competitor was Global Spectrum. Haggerty called the process the most political in which he has ever been involved.
Rumors are likely to swirl for some time because of the way the process was handled. The information was kept as secret as possible to prevent competitors from getting the upper hand. It appeared the full board only had access to the thick, detailed proposals beginning Tuesday afternoon. And they only learned the final terms in a closed
But Brooks argued the board had since Monday to read the proposals -- enough time to do their "due diligence."
De La Fuente and fellow Commissioners Chris Dobbins and Yui Hay Lee voted against proceeding.
Lee did not give a reason for his decision. Dobbins said he wanted more time.
"I did my due diligence," Dobbins said. "But I just got the financials today."
Commissioner Nate Miley said he could not defend voting Friday, even though approval only allowed negotiations with AEG to begin.
"The best you're going to get from me today is an abstention," Miley told the crowd of about 30 people who attended the JPA board meeting to lobby on behalf of SMG or AEG.
Former state Sen. Don Perata, now an SMG lobbyist and close political ally of De La Fuente and Miley, was in the crowd, as were Len Turner and Ken Houston, of Turner Group Construction.
Delaying the vote by two weeks "won't do any harm or make any difference," De La Fuente said. But it would allow the board to go into the negotiations with a "more united front."
Haggerty, however, said he felt "very comfortable" with his decision to support AEG.
"This was the best deal for the taxpayers," he said, predicting AEG would help lower the $20 million public subsidy to the Coliseum complex.
Among other things, AEG offered a $3.5 million "capital investment" for the Coliseum complex and a $1 million signing bonus for "revenue-enhancing projects."
AEG also promised to bring in 25 events, including bull riding and boxing, able to generate $2.5 million by the end of the five-year contract.
And the company promised to reduce operating expenses by $500,000 a year.
In exchange, AEG gets a foothold in the Bay Area, completing a string of venues between Washington state and Los Angeles.
AEG also offered $300,000 worth of real estate planning and development consulting services -- another arm of the sprawling megacompany that also includes concert promotions, programming, ticketing and, in the near future, a cable channel.
Oakland modeled designs for the proposed Coliseum City entertainment and sports center to replace the Coliseum complex on AEG's L.A. Live entertainment district.
AEG also works with Oracle and Overstock.com, which own the respective naming rights to the arena and Coliseum.
AEG's pay would be performance-based instead of a flat fee, which poses a danger if the company does not meet expectations. But AEG founder Philip Anschutz -- former owner of the San Francisco Examiner and a major Republican Party donor -- is reportedly worth $7 billion.
The company plans to sink more than $1 billion into an NFL stadium in Los Angeles, called Farmers Field. AEG President Tim Leiweke has made overtures to numerous NFL teams, including the Raiders.
The potential that AEG could poach the Raiders raised one of the most urgent objections to AEG voiced at Friday's meeting.
AEG "has no desire, nor can they take the Raiders," Haggerty said, repeating the words "nor can they" for emphasis.
For one, AEG agreed to add a clause in its contract that it would not talk to the teams about moving. That prompted laughter from the crowd.
AEG has a stake in the failure of the coliseum, said Michael Seals, owner of a local construction company. "This is not the time to make a change."
"There's simply nothing to it," AEG Regional Vice President Chris Wright said when asked about the rumors shortly before the meeting began.
But it was the final vote, cast by Warren, that caused the most uproar. She had to be asked twice before casting her vote. "No," she said.
"I mean, yes, sorry," she added, when prompted by Haggerty.
That caused an uproar among SMG supporters.
"She was confused, sir," Haggerty said, when challenged by Sam Singer, president of SMG's public relations firm, Singer Associates, Inc. Warren challenged Singer's assumption: "I am the longest-standing commissioner, and I know how I'm voting," she said.