Tim Leiweke gears up for another season! (Part 1) - LA Kings Insider

Long time President and CEO of AEG, Tim Leiweke sat down to chat about getting back to work!

JF: Pending ratification, what do you think are the first steps for the NHL to regain their position in the North American market?

Tim Leiweke: Well I don’t think it’s going to come easily. I think we have to understand we have our work cut out for us and so I think first of all we have to remember from a “live experience” and I say this from an organization that is fortunate enough to be involved in a lot of different sports there’s probably not a greater “live experience” in sports than the National Hockey League and we certainly saw that this past April, May and June. I think we need to get back to making sure that we protect and highlight our game, that we go out and try to grow our fan base–that we ultimately highlight our players because I think we have the greatest athletes on the face of the earth and I think we also have to go out and make sure that we don’t underestimate or look past our fans. You know and I know there’s a lot of debate about ‘will they come back or won’t they come back’–I think eventually the game and the players will win the fan base back but I think we have to make sure that we do not underestimate the damage we have done.

JF: Now specifically to the Kings–who are in a unique situation compared to the other teams in the league–same question–first steps for the Kings in the Los Angeles market?

Tim Leiweke: Win the cup again. We have spent a lot of time over the past few months talking about this impact of the lockout and our fan base and our organization and I think we all had some desires and hopes as to the CBA and making sure that it did not handcuff us and our hockey guys going forward–it has not–so we’re very happy about the way this was ultimately crafted and I think I’ll let the media and the analysts render an opinion of winners and losers but I know internally we feel like this collective bargaining agreement gives us an opportunity to continue to keep this nucleus together without sacrifice. I think we have a very amazing gift and it’s called the Stanley Cup

…and I think what happened in this town in April, May and June, turned the whole town in to see that last game and know that almost a third of the market place in all of Southern California–yes including Anaheim–was sitting there watching the LA Kings and understanding the impact that we created and the hundreds and hundreds of thousands, almost millions of people that turned out to support us including the parade. I think we made a decision as an organization that we can spend a lot of time bemoaning what just happened–the tension created–the damage don–but we’re going to be a little bit different than probably most every other team in the league–that is we have a shot with one of the youngest teams in the league, in a new agreement that allows us to keep that nucleus together to do it again and again and what we always talked about is we didn’t want to win it once–we wanted to build a legacy and in order to do that you got to win it a few times–we look at the Islanders

…and we look at the Red Wings

…and we look at the Oilers

…and the dynasties that they built and it was about being competitive each and every year for a very long period of time. We certainly have that opportunity here–we have the skill level, we were smart on our financial commitments and the way we structured them and I think now it’s about an attitude and an environment and for me, I’ve asked everybody in this organization not to talk or ultimately get too caught up in the past and to get immediately to the task at hand which is–if our every waking hour and our every waking dollar is spent on trying to do it again and to give our hockey guys the resources necessary to do that I think that we will come out of this well–that’s not looking past the pain we caused, but I think our fans are interested in hanging the banner and celebrating the moment and I think our fans are interested in giving the team every opportunity to do it again and instead of free hot dogs and beer, I’m more interested in going to Dean and saying I know our budgets “A” but I’m prepared to spend up to “B” and Mr. Anschutz is prepared to spend up to “B” and the great thing now is Phil understands that there’s some room between our current budget and the cap for this year and we will spend it if Dean can find the right guy. He has been given the green light to go add another piece to the puzzle here. We want to repeat. No one’s done it in 15 years and I think you want to figure out a way to best win the fans back and make sure that we continue to grow the sport, in Southern California–repeat!

JF: Any updates of the AEG sale?

Tim Leiweke: Well, we’re well down the road and what I’m convinced of is that the new owners will be just as driven as the current ownership on a commitment to excellence–it is not lost on people that we now have three new shiny trophies in our case with the Galaxy and their back to back championship…

and now the Kings and the Stanley Cup…

…and everyone that’s come through and been a part of the marketing and the management presentation that we’ve done–we’ve made it clear to them that we have a vision and we show them, “financially”, the path towards being able to be at the high end if not at the cap each and every year and giving our guys the chance to win each and every year and everyone that’s been through these presentations agrees with us that when you’re in LA and you see what the Dodgers have done and you see the Clippers and the Lakers and the Angels.  Now we understand that in order to be relevant in this market place we’re going to have to stay this committed and I think what we’re going to find is that new ownership will not be “just as committed” as current ownership–“even more”! And so to Mr. Anschutz’s credit he gave us the ability and the resources to succeed and now that puts us in a fantastic position–to make sure that the next group understands–‘that’s not an option, that’s not a multiple choice test’–that is a “commitment” that they need to make before Mr. Anschutz will let anyone step in and buy this team.

JF: Way back, when you met with Dean Lombardi and decided to hire him, I’m sure there were some personal traits, maybe philosophies that he talked to you about. Now that is has come full circle–the Kings have won the Cup, did you think back and say to yourself ‘that’s exactly what Dean was talking’?

Tim Leiweke: You know Dean will tell you that I hired him in the first meeting because we did our homework and this time around instead of doing a lot of interviews I think we talked to only a couple of people. We knew where we wanted to go and we in turn, we knew what philosophy we wanted to have. I think in an organization, especially one that is complicated like ours because we have a lot of different assets and 26,000 employees and we’re all around the world and we own 11 sports organizations around the world.

I think you better make sure ownership, first and foremost, ‘has a philosophy’ and I think if they don’t you’re going to get lost. I don’t care how good your GM or your coach or your players are–if ownership doesn’t have a philosophy and if we’re not prepared to ingrain that philosophy in everybody and everything we do. I do not believe that any organization can have long-term success unless everybody’s on the same page. I think what worked out well here is Dean taught us that there were going to have to be some “rough years” and that we hadn’t done enough of the tough “heavy lifting” necessary to have “long term legacy kind of success” and yes, I had to go through the x’s and the o’s and the boxes and the development and the speeches, but I think it was an important learning process because just as much as you cannot have success unless you have ownership that has a philosophy and a direction that they’re prepared to instill within everybody in that organization. Ownership has to also understand you have to hire the right people and give them the tools to succeed and I think what Dean did is he taught us from a “development standpoint” how to build the blocks. What Dean is excellent at is the building pieces and the x’s and the o’s and that huge “where’s Waldo chart” that is our development system and all the different pieces and I think because of his patience and his just “stubbornness” towards getting us committed to the patience we needed to have to put in those pieces–we never would have been successful without ownership’s philosophy and commitment to ingraining it in everybody but at the same time, a builder like Dean that came to us with his knowledge and his skills and taught us the patience necessary to understand there was not going to be a “quick fix” here.