Business News Live Business

AEG boss responds to claims live firm’s owner supports anti-gay groups

By | Published on Monday 9 January 2017


Live music giant AEG would like you all to know just how much everyone there loves LGBT rights. Can’t get enough of them. This follows recent reports that the company’s owner, Philip Anschutz, has funded homophobic organisations. The company’s CEO Dan Beckerman has now claimed that this is part of a “long running and co-ordinated” smear campaign by rivals.

As you might remember, last week there was much online chatter about the donations made by Anschutz and his foundation to political organisations in the US that oppose LGBT rights and equal marriage. The billionaire businessman, who made his some of his fortune through the oil trade, was also accused of funding professional climate change sceptics.

Anschutz’s financial support for right-leaning and conservative organisations is no secret, and there have been reports of these donations since before he even launched his entertainment business in 1999.

Monies given to certain organisations, such as the Family Research Council, were back under the spotlight last week, as a Washington Post article on the donations from last summer did the rounds again as the line-up was announced for AEG’s most famous festival, Coachella. The online debate focused on how the agenda of organisations like the Family Research Council, which has lobbied hard against gay rights and equal marriage, runs contrary to the ethos of the legendary music festival.

Anschutz put out a rare statement last week calling the claims he gave financial support to those opposing LGBT rights “garbage” and “fake news”. He denied ever knowingly supporting anti-gay programmes, and said he would withdraw funding from organisations if he discovered they opposed LGBT rights.

It’s not clear if he was saying that the $10,000 the Anschutz Foundation gave to the Family Research Council in 2013 was for a specific campaign unrelated to LGBT rights, or whether he was unaware of that organisation’s position on homosexuality at the time. The latter would be hard to believe though, given the Family Research Council has long been vocal about its position on gay rights.

Either way, AEG CEO Dan Beckerman has backed up his boss in a memo to staff, saying that all the recent chatter about Anschutz’s political donations were “part of a long running and co-ordinated attempt by our competitors to smear AEG and our many businesses, including our live music and facilities divisions”.

In the memo, published by Billboard, Beckerman added: “These attempts have failed before, and will fail again because actions speak louder than words and our track record demonstrates a strong commitment to both diversity and sustainability. As all of you already know both diversity and sustainability are two of the core values that we here at AEG live every day and are wholly committed to fostering in our workplace”.

Expanding on that “track record”, the AEG chief added: “Over the years, there have been numerous examples illustrating the company’s support of the LGBTQ community, including a very significant moment in 2013, when we and the LA Galaxy broke new ground by signing Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay professional athlete to play in any of the major sports leagues in the United States. We did it because he is a great player and that is all that mattered”.

If you’re wondering about the climate change denial stuff, well, Beckerman expanded on his ‘sustainability’ point too. “This year, AEG’s industry-leading environmental sustainability programme, AEG 1EARTH, celebrates its ten year anniversary”, he wrote. “Over the last decade, we have established an undisputed reputation for leadership on sustainability in sports and entertainment”.

So, that’s alright then. It remains to be seen if this storm now fades, or whether further scrutiny of the Anschutz Foundation’s donations will continue, resulting in further calls by opponents to those groups supported by the AEG owner for artists and fans to boycott his entertainment business.