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AEG’s Phillip Anschutz donates $1 million to Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, following anti-LGBT controversy

By | Published on Wednesday 21 March 2018

Elton John

The Elton John AIDS Foundation announced yesterday that it had received a donation of $1 million to its LGBT Fund from the Chair of live music major AEG, Philip Anschutz. This follows further scrutiny of the billionaire’s previous funding of various anti-LGBT groups.

“The donation by Phil to EJAF is in keeping with the special connection and consistently supportive, collaborative relationship I have developed with AEG for more than a decade”, says John. As suggested, AEG has promoted John’s shows for more than ten years now, and it is behind the musician’s upcoming three year farewell tour.

John, meanwhile, launched his AIDS Foundation charity in 1992. The $10 million LGBT Fund was first announced in 2015 as a public-private partnership with the US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, handing out its first grants the following year. Its main aim is to tackle stigma and discrimination in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.

“We will put [Anschutz’s] donation to work to ensure that vulnerable groups are not left behind in the fight against HIV/AIDS”, John continues. “This funding will help our programmes provide life-saving work for LGBT communities around the world, starting with the LGBT Fund in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

Anschutz himself added: “We are all proud to support the essential work of Sir Elton’s Foundation in the LBGT community. Sir Elton’s artistry is unparalleled, he is a leader and a statesman in the artistic community and on the world stage, and his advocacy for the LGBT community and those living with from AIDS and HIV has had a profound influence on all of us at AEG, and countless more around the globe. We are honoured to play a small part in Sir Elton’s important humanitarian work and to deepen our long, meaningful collaborative relationship with him and his team”.

In recent years, Anschutz has been in the news a number of times over donations made by his Anschutz Foundation to political and other groups that have overtly anti-LGBT policies. Controversy around his donations to right-leaning and conservative organisations has existed since long before he launched his entertainment business in 1999.

However, since last year, such reports have often been linked to AEG’s ownership of Coachella – the groups he donates to seen as being at odds with the ethos of the American music festival. As well as financing groups opposed to LGBT rights and equal marriage, the foundation has also given money to climate change sceptics and groups against legalised marijuana.

Last year, following a round of criticism as the line-up for the 2017 Coachella festival was announced, Anschutz said in a statement: “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”.

He added that he had never knowingly supported an anti-LGBT organisation, and that his foundation had pulled support if it became apparent that any recipient of funding did have such views.

In January this year, Pitchfork published an article examining the Anschutz Foundation’s 2016 tax return, which did show that funding to groups that had been specifically named in the controversy had been withdrawn. Although it highlighted several other organisations that actively campaign against homosexuality.

In a statement, Anschutz’s lawyer reiterated that “The Anschutz Foundation would not knowingly fund any organisation that would support anti-LGBTQ initiatives”, and said that it had further dropped funding for organisations whose “activities were inconsistent with our values” over the last year.

The legal rep then noted that weeding out these organisations is an “ongoing process” and that among the 800 or so requests for funding the foundation receives each year, sometimes these activities are missed initially, but funded groups may be investigated further if concerns are raised.

“If we find problematic activities”, the lawyer said, “we first look to work with those organisations to effectuate positive change if we perceive they are open to hearing and responding to our feedback. Ultimately, if these efforts prove unsatisfactory, we will withdraw further support from those groups”.