Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Mogul Makes His Move

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Mogul Makes His Move

Article excerpt

Why would a multibillionaire who owns a slew of businesses -- from fiber-optic communications to a professional hockey team -- want to launch a chain of free daily newspapers? For those who know Philip Anschutz, the Denver-based mogul who's been described as both the nation's "greediest executive" (by Fortune magazine) and "very, very generous" (by former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm), the answer is simple: It's good business.

But if you want Anschutz, who owns The Examiner in San Francisco and the recently launched Examiner in Washington, D.C., to tell you why, good luck. The 64-year-old businessman, whom Forbes rates as the 33rd richest in the country, has not given an interview in more than 30 years. The last was a 1974 sit-down with the Colorado Historical Society, one of his many philanthropic causes.

Since then, he has accumulated what Forbes estimates to be some $5.2 billion in assets and has kept a low profile. Anschutz "apparently wants to put out newspapers, but he apparently does not want to be in them," says Michael Roberts, media columnist for the Denver alternative weekly Westword. All requests for interviews are routinely turned down, usually by Anschutz spokesman Jim Monaghan, who claims, "It isn't his style," adding, "We don't even have a photograph of him to give out, and we don't have a bio."

So when Anschutz began delving into the free-newspaper market a year ago with the purchase of the San Francisco daily, curious observers were left to ponder his plan. Add to that the February launch of the Washington paper -- which was actually the transformation of the former Journal Newspaper chain of suburban D.C. dailies -- and it's obvious Anschutz is not doing this as a hobby. Further speculation is fueled by the fact that he has trademarked the Examiner name in 67 other cities.

"We don't have any pins on a map, but we are out seeking opportunities," says Ryan McKibben, president and CEO of Clarity Media Group, the Anschutz company formed to run the newspapers. "I think our business plan is pretty transparent." McKibben declines to elaborate on the group's future.

McKibben's brother, Scott, who is president and publisher of The Examiner in San Francisco, hinted that more papers would come but also would not say when or where: "My take is that we'll do more [free newspapers] where we find opportunities."

Anschutz's holdings indicate a history of pursuing good business opportunities in a variety of areas. His largest assets are Qwest Communications, the fiber-optic giant; Regal Cinemas, a string of movie theaters; and Union Pacific railroads. He also counts among his financial interests the Los Angeles Kings hockey club, several Major League Soccer teams, a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, portions of several entertainment production companies (he helped bankroll the Ray Charles biopic Ray), and various sports and entertainment venues in Denver and Los Angeles.

Born in Kansas in 1939, Anschutz graduated from the University of Kansas and went into business with his oil wildcatting father in the early 1960s. He quickly earned a reputation at a young age of showing up early for work and staying late as the father-and-son team made their mark in the 1960s with key oil strikes, and later in the 1970s when Anschutz expanded into natural gas.

"He is someone who takes advantage of underutilized assets," says David Milstead, a finance writer for Denver's Rocky Mountain News. …

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