April 27, 2016 News » Cover Story

Philip Anschutz's influence knows no bounds 

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent

Philip Anschutz doesn't do things half-heartedly. A self-made billionaire through oil, railroads, fiber optics, sports and entertainment, the 76-year-old Kansas native also has left his mark through charitable giving via his $1.1 billion Anschutz Foundation.

In a 2009 interview with the Philanthropy Roundtable, Anschutz talked about what's made him so successful, saying he went where others feared to tread. "I was aggressive, worked hard," he said. "Sometimes we didn't know what wouldn't work. We tried it and it often did work."

Anschutz hasn't lost that aggressive edge, which has been evident in Colorado Springs since he bought The Broadmoor and its related assets in 2011. Besides spending millions of dollars to revamp and add major retreats to the resort, he's also stamped The Broadmoor name on attractions he doesn't own and has made plays for public property on four occasions. While two of those efforts failed, the other two are pending, including a proposal for the 189-acre, city-owned Strawberry Fields open space near Seven Falls, another attraction Anschutz now owns.

Anschutz lies at the heart of the debate over Strawberry Fields, and his plan to build a stable and picnic pavilion on about nine acres of the property has come under harsh criticism from open-space advocates. They've swamped City Council and Mayor John Suthers' office with letters and emails opposing the deal; more than 5,000 have signed a petition on change.org protesting the swap. City officials say the easements and rugged wilderness proposed in exchange for the land are needed to connect gaps in the region's trail system. But The Broadmoor's promise to build trails throughout the open space and conduct fire mitigation hasn't quieted the protests.

While citizens continue to rail against the proposal, Anschutz himself has been absent. Although he reportedly spends considerable time in Colorado Springs, he rarely makes public appearances here. The closest came at the invitation-only "christening" of the newly remodeled and expanded Broadmoor West in May 2014. And outside the innermost circle of The Broadmoor hierarchy, few likely would claim to really know Anschutz well. He's given only a handful of interviews in the last 40 years, and none in the last five, not even to the Gazette, which he also owns.

It's a mystery how deep Anschutz's tentacles reach in the day-to-day operations at The Broadmoor, or whether his direct reports — Chairman Steve Bartolin and CEO Jack Damioli — carry out his vision as they understand it philosophically. The same can be asked about his charitable giving: Does Anschutz decide which organizations to support and how much to give? Or are those decisions made by others, such as his son, Christian?

Despite his low profile locally, Anschutz has met with major elected officials — on one occasion at least. In an address to Springs' business and community leaders, Gov. John Hickenlooper noted that he'd recently hosted Anschutz and Mayor Suthers at the Governor's Mansion for dinner.

Kent Obee, former chair of the city's Parks Advisory Board who helped launch the city's tax for parks, trails and open space in the 1990s, is exasperated at Anschutz's apparent influence over decision-makers.

"I find it appalling that one individual can have that much power over an entire community of a half-million," Obee says. "I don't know, frankly, whether any of the things he has done have actually made this a better place."

Others argue otherwise, saying Anschutz and The Broadmoor are excellent corporate citizens who contribute to the community in myriad ways.

From Suthers in a statement: "The business and philanthropic investments Mr. Anschutz and the Anschutz Foundation have made in Colorado Springs over the last several years have and will continue to dramatically improve the economic environment of our city and quality of life of our citizens."

Bartolin kicks it up a notch, saying via email, "I don't think our community could ask for a bigger gift than to have Phil Anschutz's involvement."

Since The Broadmoor opened in 1918, it's had only three owners: gold, copper and silver magnate Spencer Penrose and his foundation, El Pomar; Edward Gaylord and his Oklahoma Publishing Co., which bought it in 1988 and invested some $450 million, and Anschutz.

The Broadmoor is just a small part of the Anschutz empire, though. Anschutz owns a movie production company, land in Wyoming under development as a mega wind farm, the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings, and major entertainment venues worldwide.

In at least one case, he finessed public property for one of his biggest projects. In the late 1990s, Anschutz convinced the Los Angeles City Council to hand over 27 "blighted" acres of condemned downtown property for his entertainment enclave, which includes the Staples Center and L.A. Live, a robust entertainment district, according to a 2009 article in LA Weekly. The total cost was $375 million, and the deal involved a $71-million, 25-year loan, which didn't include the blighted land procured by the city. Loan payments are made annually through Staples ticket sales.

click to enlarge Philip Anschutz has an 'insatiable drive for more.' - HELEN H. RICHARDSON/THE DENVER POST
  • Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post
  • Philip Anschutz has an 'insatiable drive for more.'

"Although AEG's Staples Center/Ritz-Carlton/L.A. Live endeavor will pay increased property taxes and sales taxes thanks to an expected growth in visitors to the area and its upscale hotels, L.A. taxpayers, who have poured so much of their public money into the deals, will not recoup the revenue from the lucrative hotel bed tax for 25 years," LA Weekly reported.

The newspaper also reported that Anschutz then sold the land not used for the complex and pocketed the money, the proceeds of which were "almost impossible" to compute due to how the condemnations were handled.

Closer to home and more recently, The Broadmoor in April 2013 proposed closing a 3,000-foot stretch of Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard in order to expand its golf courses. Neighbors organized in opposition, citing the road as a crucial exit for thousands of residents in case of a wildfire; 434 signed an online petition against the closing.

Four months later, in August 2013, The Broadmoor withdrew the plan. Then-CEO Bartolin met with neighbors and drew enthusiastic applause when he announced the plan was dead. "After the Waldo Canyon Fire [in 2012] and the Black Forest Fire [in 2013]," he said at the time, "we just felt politically and from a common-sense standpoint, vacating that road and taking away an evacuation route wasn't going to fly."

As a footnote, Bartolin sent an email, obtained by the Independent in an open-records request, to then-Mayor Steve Bach about 50 minutes before the Waldo fire swept into the city in 2012, prompting Bach to order an emergency evacuation of more than 20,000 people. Two died.

"Realizing public safety is the priority," Bartolin's June 26 email said, "but to the extent that we can appear more 'business as usual' could mitigate millions of dollars in lost business for Colorado Springs during this time." He also said that due to national media coverage, "We are receiving cancellations from Texas to New York. I just got word that UBS Financial was canceling their meeting with us next week for 2400 people. The economic loss to The Broadmoor alone is $1.5 million ... Hundreds of rooms of vacationers have canceled over the course of next week."

The Waldo fire destroyed some 350 homes in Mountain Shadows subdivision that day.

The Broadmoor's next proposal came in 2015 when it brokered a deal with El Paso County for a 20-year, $18,000-a-year user fee agreement to conduct trail rides through Bear Creek Regional Park. The resort also proposed a stable on 8.6 acres south and east of the park, for which The Broadmoor paid $1 million the previous December.

The deal, OKed by county staff because commissioners' approval wasn't needed, angered area residents including Bob Wallace, who mountain-bikes and walks his dog in the park. He told the Indy via email at that time that most who attended a packed public meeting "think this is a done deal, the Broadmoor has way more influence over the outcome than a group of residents."

Wallace also said he was "unsettled" by the idea that "anyone can set up shop next to a park and run a commercial enterprise using the park as their own." (The Strawberry Fields deal would allow The Broadmoor to set up shop within what now is zoned as park land.)

But again, The Broadmoor backed away. In April 2015, the resort suspended the stable proposal, with Bartolin citing market research of the resort's guests. "They felt that the park itself was very lovely but felt more of a wilderness setting would be most desirable," he said in a statement to the city seeking postponement of the permitting process.

Now, The Broadmoor has found a new spot for a stable — in Strawberry Fields.

The Broadmoor doesn't maintain the five-star resort's status, as judged by Forbes Travel Guide, by treading water. Since Anschutz took over, he's pumped nearly $200 million into The Broadmoor, Bartolin reports, including remodeling existing facilities, adding restaurants and building entire outposts.

In 2013, the Ranch at Emerald Valley — a rustic retreat surrounded by 100,000 acres of the Pike National Forest, its website says — opened and promptly was heavily damaged by a deluge of rain that caused two dams on the property to burst. It's since been restored and reopened.

But The Broadmoor doesn't actually own the 82 acres on which the ranch is located. To change that, the resort has persuaded the state's two U.S. senators — Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet — as well as Rep. Doug Lamborn to support legislation authorizing a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service for 320 acres west of Pikes Peak purchased by The Broadmoor in September 2013 for $1.3 million.

The Crags, Colorado Land Exchange Act of 2015, due for action by August of this year, would authorize the exchange and allow The Broadmoor to claim as a donation the difference in value between its property and the ranch property. Appraisals weren't immediately available for the properties.

In 2014, The Broadmoor opened Cloud Camp, built on the site of a 1920s adobe lodge on Cheyenne Mountain used by Penrose but later bulldozed. It features 20 guest rooms and a main lodge.

That same year, it opened The Broadmoor Fishing Camp located on the Tarryall River in Park County and bordering 120,000 acres of the Lost Creek Wilderness, the resort's website says. "Activities at the camp will include fly-fishing, horseback riding, hiking, and the opportunity to see some of Colorado's most spectacular wildlife," the website says.

Last year, The Broadmoor purchased an 11,500-square-foot home east of the resort, which the Gazette reports is being remodeled. When opened, it will command a rate of $8,500 per night.

Per-night rates for various Broadmoor accommodations range from $385 in the winter to $605 in the summer, while suites go for $550 in winter to $4,000 in summer; luxury cottages range from $1,000 to $5,700 depending on the size and time of year, according to Forbes Travel Guide.

Those room rates generate a boatload of lodger's tax, sales tax and property tax revenues. How much The Broadmoor adds to the city's more than $4 million a year collected from hotel room and car rental taxes isn't a matter of public record, although someone familiar with the tax says The Broadmoor is the biggest contributor. The annual Space Symposium attracts upwards of 10,000 people, many of whom stay in other hotels; as well, The Broadmoor is the venue of choice for countless conventions and local nonprofit fundraisers.

click to enlarge The Broadmoor World Arena has a deal with AEG Facilities. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • The Broadmoor World Arena has a deal with AEG Facilities.

Although individual businesses' sales tax receipts, considered proprietary, aren't open to the public, property taxes are a matter of public record, and The Broadmoor and its related interests pay a bundle — more than $1.7 million in 2015, which is a third more than the $1.28 million it paid in 2010 before the new venues were built under Anschutz's oversight.

Anschutz hasn't only had an impact on the property he owns, but in April 2014 he also maneuvered The Broadmoor's name onto the 7,300-seat Colorado Springs World Arena, now called The Broadmoor World Arena. The arena's board contains several people with ties to El Pomar Foundation, which has offices at The Broadmoor and donated significant sums to build the arena.

Anschutz's AEG Facilities also struck a "comprehensive multi-year venue services agreement" with the arena, according to a news release, details of which haven't been disclosed.

Has all that improved the bottom line for the arena? In 2014, according to the most recent available IRS filing, the arena reported its biggest loss, $1.8 million, in a three-year period, and its assets declined from $38.6 million in 2013 to $36.7 million in 2014.

But it might be too soon to judge. Dot Lischick, the arena's general manager, in a news release called the deals with AEG and The Broadmoor "a venue manager's dream come true."

The month before that, The Broadmoor became the title sponsor of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a race started in 1916 by Spencer Penrose. The hotel also purchased flood-damaged Seven Falls in 2014 for just under $1 million, invested generously in repairs from flooding and updates of amenities, reopening the attraction in 2015.

click to enlarge Seven Falls' entrance now bears The Broadmoor's symbol. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Seven Falls' entrance now bears The Broadmoor's symbol.

But shrewd business moves apparently belie a kinder and gentler side of Anschutz, who reportedly circulates throughout The Broadmoor at times to speak one-on-one with staff, seeking their opinions on how things are going.

As Bartolin says, "He also happens to be one of the nicest people I have ever known, in any walk of life."

So what does it all mean for the average citizen in Colorado Springs? Reviews are mixed.

Gina Byrd, among those who've flooded the mayor's office with email opposing the land swap, says in an April 20 letter she was offended when she encountered The Broadmoor's metal gate blocking access to Seven Falls.

"When guests come to the Broadmoor, they really don't contribute to the city in any other way," Byrd, who lives in the southwest sector, writes. "I don't see Broadmoor buses dropping off guests in downtown Colorado Springs, like the Cheyenne Mountain Resort buses do. No, if you come to the Broadmoor, you don't leave, until it is time to get back on the bus to DIA for your flight home. Broadmoor guests usually don't even fly into this city. The Broadmoor is an oasis, a place that is separate from Colorado Springs, yet reaps incredible benefits from its location here."

Richard Skorman, former vice mayor and downtown restaurant and bookstore owner who's a vocal opponent of the land swap, credits The Broadmoor with bringing attention to the Springs — but it's not a marriage made in heaven. "When you know they're marketed nationally," Skorman says, "it does make a positive for the community. But it's hard to know if there's a direct benefit. They bring people to the community, but those of us downtown wish there was more of a connection to downtown."

Skorman identified another issue — one voiced by many during the land swap process — the Gazette daily newspaper acquired in 2012 by Clarity Media Group, controlled by Anschutz.

"I have concerns about Anschutz owning the major daily newspaper when there are controversial issues like this [that] they have a stake in," Skorman says.

After Anschutz acquired the Gazette, the newspaper won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2014 for a series of stories about the military published in 2013. (The reporter who wrote the series, Dave Philipps, left in mid-2014 for The New York Times, and both senior editors at that time have since left. It's worth noting that Colorado native Vince Bzdek, an author and a former editor at The Denver Post and The Washington Post, took the helm as editor in mid-April.)

The daily's editorial positions clearly reflect Anschutz's right-wing agenda and some say blur the lines between news and opinion. Last year, the newspaper, whose editorial board includes Christian Anschutz, ran a four-day series called "Clearing the Haze" that disparaged legalized marijuana in Colorado. Though billed as a "perspective series," the package was presented as news and drew jeers from readers, especially after leaks saying management warned the newsroom that any negative comments in social media or elsewhere could have consequences, to include affecting job security.

Skorman contends the Gazette's editorial pages have allowed more space to supporters of the land swap than to detractors, although it appears the newspaper published pro and con columns once and has published few if any letters to the editor on the topic.

But the Gazette has editorialized twice, endorsing the deal and dismissing its critics.

click to enlarge Sue Spengler led a rally April 23 at Strawberry Fields. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Sue Spengler led a rally April 23 at Strawberry Fields.

Valerie Schoenherr reacted to the first editorial in a Feb. 1 email to the mayor. "After reading the Gazette's Op-ed piece about the benefits of the land swap I felt my intelligence offended," she wrote. "This is really just a win for the Broadmoor. That an editorial written by the paper owned by Anschutz's publishing company would support it is to be expected. To think that the public would view that as anything but self-serving is ridiculous."

And Jerri DeCarolis reacted to the second one in an April 20 email to the mayor and Council, saying, "We all know who controls them [the Gazette]."

In fairness, Skorman notes, referring to The Broadmoor, "They've always been a big economic driver and have a lot of connections with public officials and city staff. They're an important player and media owner, so I'm sure that gets them a seat at the table."

Obee wonders if The Broadmoor is seated at the head of the table.

"What I fear is where we are right now is sort of the beginning, and pretty soon we will become Anschutz Springs," he says. "I'd rather have our decisions being made by all of us rather than one incredibly wealthy plutocrat. This business of controlling a whole city and all the people who live in it I find ominous. I don't like it."

But many residents have spoken in favor of the land swap, noting The Broadmoor's high standards.

Among them is Lee Wolf, past president of the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon whose residential property abuts Strawberry Fields.

Wolf says the Parks Department has neglected the open space and can't afford fire mitigation, trash pickup, trail building and other maintenance and repairs.

"Over the 30 years I've lived in the home, the city has done nothing to the Strawberry Hills area," Wolf says in an interview. "While they were doing nothing, two huge drainage channels have formed by my house. So when I learned that The Broadmoor was going to take over the land, I was encouraged, because they will do a much better job than the city would ever do. They have the money and they are committed to taking care of this drainage problem and building trails and make the 200 acres into a walkable, livable park. I'm all for it."

The Broadmoor also has pledged to conduct fire mitigation and, Wolf adds, use its security force to police the area.

As an example of The Broadmoor's neighborliness, Wolf tells this story about after the Waldo Canyon Fire's conflagration wiped out hundreds of homes on the city's northwest side.

"The Broadmoor approached the neighborhood I live in, and they said they had money to do fire mitigation on our properties and they would pay $750 or $1,000 per household, but we'd have to put in a similar amount," he says. "Who in the neighborhood has the most to lose in case there's a fire? It's The Broadmoor. So they're going to protect their assets far more than a homeowner would."

He adds, "If you look around, The Broadmoor has done a good job with whatever they do. There's all this heartache over they're going to put in stables and a picnic area. Well, that's a small portion of the area."

But Michael Chaussee, who opposes the swap, says The Broadmoor hasn't been a good steward in some cases. He notes in an email to City Council that the resort hasn't controlled erosion on the Manitou Incline property it owns, which the city has paid nearly $2 million to repair so far. "The Broadmoor contributed $0 to the repairs for its own land," he says.

Anschutz's flourishing businesses make him the 108th richest person in the world in 2016 with $9.7 billion, according to Forbes, and the 18th-largest land owner in the United States, with 434,500 acres, according to The Land Report of 2015.

But Anschutz also is known for his philanthropy. Besides donating significant artwork to the American Museum of Western Art that he established in Denver, his home, Anschutz has established two charitable operations: the Anschutz Foundation, with assets of more than $1 billion as of late 2013, and the Anschutz Family Foundation, with assets of $30.7 million as of November 2014.

The foundations support a wide range of causes, including orchestras, museums, churches, schools, women's shelters, rehab clinics, the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, and programs that serve the underprivileged community, not to mention the state-of-the-art Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, the Philanthropy Roundtable reports.

For those efforts, he was recognized by the roundtable in 2009 with a prize for philanthropic leadership and by the National Western Stock Show in 2015 as its Citizen of the West. That led El Pomar's CEO and President Bill Hybl to say at the time, as quoted in the Gazette, "The entire Anschutz family has made significant contributions which will benefit this state for decades to come."

Locally, Anschutz contributed to the cost of the city's City for Champions 2013 proposal for state sales tax money through the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and he joined with El Pomar and philanthropist Lyda Hill (who sold Seven Falls to The Broadmoor) to donate $6 million to a new fund at the Colorado Springs Airport to attract new flights and airlines. He's also supported the Springs Rescue Mission with a recent $300,000 donation.

All that makes Anschutz something of a superstar in Bartolin's eyes.

"He has used his success and wealth to do so many things for the good of mankind through both his business and his foundation but he does it very quietly and you will seldom see his name attached," Bartolin says. "I always knew he would be a great owner for The Broadmoor, but he has embraced Colorado Springs as well. You see it in his support for the Olympic Museum, the Airport, the Pikes Peak Summit House, funding to support Colorado Springs cyber efforts, supporting the Colorado Impact Fund, specifically targeted for start-up businesses in Colorado Springs, and very quietly, through his foundation, millions of dollars come in the form of support for our nonprofit community each year since he has owned the hotel."

But none of that matters much to some opponents of the land swap.

Donna Strom has done a little research on Anschutz, and points to The Motley Fool's take on Anschutz's habit of owning not only the venue but the content; think the Staples Center and the LA Lakers. "In fact," the stock advisor website says, "his strategy is to own a piece of everything so that he can cross-promote, and win both ways. It's a plan that has worked out very well for his net worth over the years."

Strom applies that to the question that's been repeatedly asked during debate over Strawberry Fields: "Why does The Broadmoor have to own it?"

"So, of course he wants to own Strawberry," she says. "That's the venue. And content is the ponies and the BBQ and the picnic pavilion. Really, it's a bit of genius, don't you think? After all is said and done, he's just a really brilliant businessman who has a seemingly insatiable drive for more."

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