AEG owner says claims he supports anti-gay causes are “garbage”
By Chris Cooke | Published on Friday 6 January 2017
The owner of live music giant AEG, Phillip Anschutz, has hit out at claims that he financially supports political organisations that oppose LGBT rights, after a flurry of online chit chat about donations made through his Anschutz Foundation.
It’s no secret that American billionaire Anschutz, who made his fortune in oil and infrastructure, and who first created the Anschutz Entertainment Group in 1999, supports right-leaning politicians and groups. Over the years he has donated significant sums to Republican Party causes and other organisations with a conservative agenda, and he was once accused by Greenpeace of being a “financier of climate science denial”.
All of this became a talking point this week as the line-up was announced for the 2017 edition of possibly the most famous festival that sits under the AEG banner, Coachella. Various reports honed in on donations Anschutz has made to the likes of the so called Family Research Council, which has been prolific in opposing gay rights and marriage equality in the US. The gist of the chatter was that the agenda of these conservative organisations runs contrary to the ethos of the Coachella festival.
AEG acquired Coachella promoter Goldenvoice all the way back in 2001, and coverage of Anschutz’s support for conservative causes goes back to at least the 1990s. Much of this week’s outrage seems to stem from an article published by the Washington Post last July, which makes the timing of the online outrage interesting. It’s possibly a sign that those with more liberal leanings Stateside fear advances made in recent years in areas like LGBT rights could be reversed in the era of Trump and with a Washington dominated by Republicans.
Either way, Anschutz, who rarely speaks to the press, especially about his entertainment business, issued a statement yesterday stating that the accusations he supported anti-LGBT causes were “garbage”, that the stories to that effect were “fake news”, and that his companies “do not tolerate discrimination in any form”.
His statement read: “Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news – it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation. We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us – the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form”.
Honing in on donations he has made directly or via his Foundation to political groups, he went on: “Both The Anschutz Foundation and I contribute to numerous organisations that pursue a wide range of causes. Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organisation with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and when it has come to my attention or the attention of The Anschutz Foundation that certain organisations either the Foundation or I have funded have been supporting such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups”.
The latter part of that statement is presumably there to counter any lists that have or may yet be posted online of organisations he or his Foundation have supported that do, in fact, oppose LGBT rights. For example, the aforementioned Family Research Council, which – Billboard notes – the Anschutz Foundation gave $10,000 in 2013, the last year tax records are publicly available for the funding entity.
If faced with such a list, Anschutz will presumably say that he stopped funding such groups once made aware of their anti-gay rhetoric, or that he will stop funding them now that he knows their position on LGBT rights. Though anyone unclear of the Family Research Council’s position on homosexuality in 2013 really wasn’t paying attention.
Some of the chatter around Anschutz’s political donations this week suggested that artists and/or fans should boycott his entertainment businesses, which, of course, include a plethora of venues, festivals, tours and sports teams across the world. This may be why we got that rare statement from Anschutz himself.
Whether this controversy will now quickly pass remains to be seen. Anschutz considered selling his entertainment group a few years back, but decided against that plan when no decent bids came in. Perhaps increased public scrutiny of this kind could put such a move back on the agenda.