Pioneer: Philip Anschutz, an extraordinary tycoon
Born December 28, 1939 in Kansas, Philip Frederick Anschutz got his start at a time when the Western world was in crisis. Hitler had invaded Poland and was beginning his steady march through Europe. The United States would not enter the fray for four years – but the repercussions of the war were rippling through the United States, regardless
At this time, the American Midwest was still recovering from the fallout of the Great Depression and, as is customary in the aftermath of the disaster, the opportunists were making their mark. One such man was Fred Anschutz, Philip’s father, who worked as a “savage”, more commonly described as a “freelance exploratory oil well driller”.
The wheels of industry were turning rapidly in the United States at this time, and the demand for more energy to power the growing number of factories and industrial sites—as well as the booming automobile industry—was enormous.
The family moved to Wichita, where Fred Anschutz found contract success and Philip attended high school. An avid student, he went on to pursue a degree in finance at the University of Kansas, where he graduated with honors in 1961.
Dive into the industry
With his resolute interest in financial legal matters, Anschutz had planned to complete a graduate law degree at the University of Virginia. Before starting the first semester, however, he returned to Wichita to take over the family business, Circle A Drilling, which was struggling due to his father’s descent into alcoholism and an array of health issues. which resulted.
With his keen business acumen and knowledge of the financial markets, Anschutz quickly got the company back on its feet and flourishing. But his foray into business management in the energy sector had whetted his appetite for big business – so he moved to Denver, the heart of the industry, to start his own company, Anschutz Corporation, in 1965. .
The crisis hits the company
But the road to success is often strewn with obstacles to overcome, and during Anschutz Corporation’s early years, a fire broke out in the Wyoming oilfield he was working on. Anschutz had no financial provision for such a disaster.
At that time, the famous firefighter Red Adair had his biopic filed by Universal Pictures. Anschutz sold the rights to Universal to film Adair putting out his oilfield fire. He then used his fee ($100,000) as payment to Adair for his services and invested the rest in developing the oil fields.
This move meant he could grow the business significantly and develop more profit streams. By 1975 he had purchased oil fields in Colorado, Texas, Montana and Wyoming. He had also purchased uranium and coal mines and developed innovative seismic drilling technology which, in 1980, had been responsible for locating a billion dollar oil field under his own ranch on the border between Utah and Wyoming.
Anschutz sold the oilfield for $500 million to Mobil – which was the springboard capital that seeded the rest of his investing career.
A shift towards telecoms and travel
In 1975, Anschutz began exploring other industries, including the railroad and telecommunications industry. He decided to revamp the old disused lines, and by 1984 had acquired Rio Grande Industries, which owned the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad.
The purchase price was $90 million. And then he bought Southern Pacific Railroad for over a billion dollars. However, Anschutz had a clear, long-term vision: after investing in new tracks and trains, he then sold the company to Union Pacific Railroad for US$5.4 billion in 1996, bringing in more than US$1 billion in the process, while also becoming a major shareholder of Union Pacific.
Anschutz was always on the lookout for opportunities and, using his railway rights-of-way, he installed fiber optic cables for telecommunications companies. He also laid additional cables for himself. In 1995, he was able to use his own fiber optic network to create Qwest Communications, a dot com boom leader of the decade.
At the peak of his wealth, Anschutz amassed a net worth of $15 billion, but all was not well, and when Qwest Communications stock plummeted following the dot com meltdown, several of its top executives have been convicted of insider trading and fraud.
Sports and entertainment
In the year 2000, Anschutz – still reeling from the crash of Qwest Communications – decided to invest in the sports and entertainment industries. He was responsible for creating Major League Soccer and at one time financially supported six top teams. Anschutz still owns the LA Galaxy team to this day. Following these investments, he then started working in the film industry.
He launched Walden Media, a production company specializing in family films with moral messages. The studio’s box office winners included the Chronicles of Narnia trilogy and Ray.
Anschutz operates its businesses under an umbrella group entity called Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns several venues and sports teams internationally.
Indeed, AEG Presents is second only to Live Nation in the world and has hosted some of the biggest concerts in the world, from Michael Jackson’s ill-fated 2009 “This Is It” tour to Coachella.
Hotels and hospitality
Not content with playing a major role in the entertainment industry space, Anschutz is moving into hotels. In 2010, it added news outlets, including the San Francisco Examiner, to his wallet. In 2009, he bought the conservative political magazine The weekly norm by Rupert Murdoch.
His most recent purchases include a collection of iconic American hotels. He owns the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and the luxury lodge chain Xanterra.
A family man
Yet despite his incredibly opulent lifestyle, Anschutz never caught the eye of the media, instead leading a surprisingly low-key existence over the decades. For example, he married his childhood sweetheart, Nancy, whom he met at the age of 16. The couple’s three children have lived a singularly private existence as Anschutz prefers to maintain a reclusive life. Currently residing in Denver, he lives modestly, avoiding the idea of having a driver, and can sometimes be seen in one of his hotels, wearing blue jeans and watching his favorite sports teams unrecognized.