CARSON, Calif. – News that Tim Leiweke, the man who brought David Beckham to Major League Soccer and the primary architect of the LA Galaxy's rise in the past half-decade or so, has left AEG and will no longer shepherd the two-time defending MLS Cup champions has stunned the team but not shaken their belief that the club will continue on its path no matter who helms its ownership group.
“We won't have Tim, who's certainly a focal point of the Galaxy,” head coach/general manager Bruce Arena said following training Friday morning at the Home Depot Center. “We're going to miss that, but we're going to have the continued support of AEG. Nothing changes, as far as we're concerned.
"We're never going to replace Tim Leiweke with Tim Leiweke, but having said that, I said this year we're not going to replace David Beckham. We're going to move on. It's unfortunate, but that's what we're charged to do.”
Leiweke, whose business acumen, passion for Anschutz Entertainment Group's sports properties and outsized personality made him one of the most important men on the American sports scene, also was responsible for hiring Arena, bringing in Robbie Keane and, as president and CEO of AEG, building HDC and, with Philip Anschutz, ensuring MLS's survival and success.
His departure Thursday, when The Anschutz Company announced it had dropped plans to sell off AEG and that Leiweke was leaving the company “by mutual agreement,” was most unexpected.
“Devastating,” said defender Omar Gonzalez. “The night before he was in our locker room [after the 4-1 victory over Herediano] congratulating us on going through [to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals], and the next day he's gone. It happened that quickly. I think everyone was just shocked.”
Leiweke, who also presided over the Los Angeles Kings, the NHL's reigning Stanley Cup champion, was praised as a forward-thinking leader who gave all of himself to make the Galaxy the “gold standard” in American soccer.
“I love Tim Leiweke. I think he's one of the best things that has happened to me in my career. I'm going to miss him,” Arena said. “I think I can speak for everyone in our organization: We care a lot about Tim, we certainly wish him the best. He's been a phenomenal person to work with, a great leader, a real inspiration. ...
“He's the best person I've ever worked for. I think the world of Tim. I can't tell you how much of a loss it is for me personally, but that's the business we're in.”
Keane, who joined the Galaxy in the summer of 2011, called him “one of the best [owners] I've come across. ... For me to come over from the U.K, bringing the whole family over here, he made it so easy for myself, my family, and I'm forever grateful for that.”
Leiweke courted Beckham through the last part of 2006 and signed him to a pre-contract just after New Year's in 2007. Beckham spent five years with the Galaxy, bringing unprecendented interest to the club and MLS, especially from overseas.
“When you have a guy like Tim who's so passionate and so engaged, it doesn't take a big sales job, but he certainly communicated all the passion that he has to whoever he's talking with,” said Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan. “I can't imagine us getting David without Tim Leiweke.”
Dan Beckerman, formerly AEG's chief financial officer and chief operating officer, replaces Leiweke as president and CEO, and the Galaxy don't expect things to change under his leadership.
“We don't believe [it will],” Arena said. “We'll have the same resources. It won't be the same way, how we approach things ... [but] Dan's a great guy. He's extremely bright, very supportive, different kind of personality than Tim, for sure, but obviously a very competent businessman and a person who works with the utmost integrity.”