Bragging on the boss

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Philip Anschütz
Philip Anschütz Credits: Anschütz Family Foundation
Philip Anschütz
Philip Anschütz Credits: Anschütz Family Foundation

By Karen Holt
Historic Americans Examiner

December 28, 1939, Philip Frederick Anschütz (pronounced ANN-shoots), arrived in Russell, Kansas and would, in years to come, rise to the ranks of an American entrepreneur.  After he became well established in the world of business, it was learned Anschütz held an admiration for Napoleon Bonaparte.  He revealed his favorite moment in the emporer’s life was when he was confronted by his generals regarding the Battle of Jena.  With the odds stacked strongly against the French, the generals made an effort to rework Bonaparte’s way of looking at the situation.  Instead, he told them, “What do I care about circumstances?  I create circumstances.” Anschütz’s life has modeled that same attitude, partnered with the philosphy – ‘When a duck quacks, feed it.”

Philip’s grandfather, Karl Anschütz, was born in the predominantly German area of Samara, Russia, and emigrated from Russia to Russell, Kansas where he began Farmers State Bank.  Philip’s father began an oil-exploration business, Circle A Drilling, in Hays, Kansas.

Anschütz graduated from Wichita High School East in 1957 and received a bachelor’s degree in business in 1961 from the University of Kansas where he was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity.  He and his wife, Nancy – who he met at the age of 16 – are the parents of three children.

In 1961, Anschütz bought out his father’s drilling company.  By 1967, his investments in wildcat wells left him broke, due to so many of the wells being dry, and the well he did find oil in caught fire.  The lack of funds left him unable to hire a crew to handle the inferno.  In an effort to extinguish the blaze, Anschütz called Universal Pictures.  At this time, the studio was producing a film about Red Adair, the famous oilfield firefighter.  Anschütz acquired $100,000, enough money to pay Adair, by selling the rights to Universal to film Adair as he extinguished the blaze.  Universal later used the footage in the film Hellfighters starring John Wayne.

In 1970, Anschütz bought one of the largest farming corporations in the US – Baughman Farms of Liberal. Kansas.  For his $10 million investment, he acquired a 250,000 acre spread.  In 1971, his land holdings increased another 9 million acres when he purchased additional land along the Wyoming-Utah border.  In the early 1980s, drilling began on the Anschütz Ranch and hit a 1 billion barrel oil pocket.  This discovery proved to be the largest US oil field discovery since the 1968 Prudhoe Bay discovery in Alaska.  In 1982, Mobil Oil paid $500 million to purchase a half-interest in the field.

For several years, Anschütz held claim to the title of Colorado’s only billionaire.  He continued to acquire acreage throughout numerous western states and is now said to privately own more cattle and farm land in the US than any other citizen.

After his land acquisitions were concluded, Anschütz moved on to railroads and telecommunications, then the entertainment industry.  A 1999 edition of Fortune Magazine compared him to J. P. Morgan, a 19th century tycoon – stating the two men struck it rich by operating across an array of industries, reshaping the economic landscapes as they went.

Anschütz’s railroad business began in 1984 with the purchase of Rio Grande Industries, parent company of the Rio Grande Railroad.  In 1988, Southern Pacific Railroad joined the Rio Grande family. In September 1996, Union Pacfic Corporation merged with Southern Pacific and Anschütz became Union Pacific’s vice-chairman.

During the late 1980s, MCI signed contracts with Anschütz to lay fiber-optic cables in the right-of-ways he owned with his railroads.  In the process, Anschütz laid additional cables and formed Qwest Communications.  He then hired Joe Nacchio from AT&T in 1997 and increased Qwest’s fiber optic network from 4,500 miles to 18,000, added an IPO and a $40 billion takeover of baby bell US West.  Anschütz’s net worth rose to $15 billion when Qwest’s market value topped $100 billion.  In November 1993, he served as Director and Chairman of the Board of Qwest, stepping down in 2002, but retaining his seat on the board.

In 2000, shares in Qwest began to spiral downward at a rapid rate, due to allegations of chicanery in the accounting department.  Five Qwest executives were indicted for insider trading and fraud.  Anschütz was found guilty in May 2003 of exchanging Qwest’s investment banking business for IPO shares from Salomon Smith Barney.  New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer reached a settlement with Anschütz in the form of a $4.4 million penalty.  This penalty was broken up into $100,000 payments to 32 New York non-profits, plus six law schools received $200,000 each.  The penalty paid equaled the profit Anschütz previously earned.

In May 2001, Anschütz sought the right to drill an exploratory oil well in south-central Montana at Weatherman Draw.  Native American tribes protested the drilling in an effort to preserve sacred rock drawings.  Though the Bush Administration upheld Anschütz’s request, in April 2002, Anschütz Exploration relinquished their request to drill and instead donated the oil and gas lease rights to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Denver Rocky Mountain News announced Anschütz’s retirement from the boards of Union Pacific and Qwest in February 2006, in addition to Regal Entertainment Group due to his desire to focus his attention on other investments.  In 2006 he purchased Xanterra Parks and Resorts, and Grand Canyon Railway in 2007.

Ranked as one of the world’s richest billionaires, Anschütz was listed by Forbes as #34 in October 2010, with his estimated net worth at $7 billion.  In 1982, the Anschütz Family Foundation was begun by his parents.  From 1998 – 2004, Philip donated $110 million through the foundation, with 80% of his efforts designated for charities within the state of Colorado.

Anschütz is a Presbyterian who actively participates in a large number of conservative and religious causes.  He helped to fund Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington; a think tank which criticizes evolution and promotes ‘intelligent design’.  His two production companies financed and distributed the films Amazing Grace and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He also financed The Foundation for a Better Life.

Though a conservative Christian who has had Billy Graham for a house guest; Anschütz has dipped his finger in the rock ‘n roll pie on occasion.  After sitting down with Michael Jackson, he agreed to back the singer’s ill-fated farewell performance, due to Jackson’s sincere desire for redemption.   Jackson’s atoning theme also encouraged Anschütz to back the movie Ray. After Jackson’s death, the losses to AEG were minimal, with most of the money recouped.

In 2009, Anschützpurchased The Weekly Standard, a conservative American opinion magazine, previously owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.   Murdoch founded The Weekly Standard in 1995.  He used it as a platform in Washington to express his opinion of the White House during the Clinton years.  When George W. Bush became president, the publication gained a privileged position.

In 2005, Anschütz began the Examiner as a conservative competitor to the Washington Post.  His instructions to the editoral staff was simple – the editorial page would be composed only of conservative columns by conservative op-ed writers.  Since then, the politics of the paper have strengthened as a selection of writers have been obtained through a variety of conservative think-tanks and outlets.  Such names as Byron York (National Review) – chief political correspondent; David Freddoso (author of The Case Against Barack Obama) – investigative reporter; and Michael Barone (Fox News) – senior political analyst; have now been added to the list.  (He also owns Examiner.com – which offers hundreds of journalists the opportunity to create hyperlocal dispatches from the comfort of their homes.)

Now in his 70s,  Philip Anschütz’s is relatively recluse gentleman and not an easy person to pick out in a crowd, which he seems to like.  Anschütz sightings have occurred at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as he cheers for the Lakers and in the Amgen Tour of California.  It is not uncommon for him to stand on street corners in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, CA handing out free copies of the Examiner newspaper to passers-by.  Though recluse, he in no way compares to the germophobic Howard Hughes.

Anschütz Corporation is housed on the 24th floor of a skyscraper in downtown Denver.  The offices are modestly decorated with wood-paneling and furniture equal to that found in a small law firm.  Books briming with lavish photos of America’s national parks and cowboys of the west populate the tables.

A down-to-earth businessman, Anschütz’s own office has glass walls lined with model trains, books and mementoes.  Hard-driven and down-to-earth, the businessman is often seen chomping on an unlit cigar.  Though he typically follows his own lead, according to Attorney Robert Starzel, Anschütz values the opinions of others and will normally seek feedback from a number of individuals on the same subject.

Thought by some to possess an allergy to publicity, Anschütz is of the opinion if he were to give one interview, he would be inundated with a dam-burst of additional requests; thus, his mid-west roots created in him the desire to be humble and embrace privacy.  With no desire to be lavish, he prefers his Timex to a Rolex, drives a used car and puchases his suits off the rack at Joseph A. Banks.  A complete opposite to Donald Trump, Anschütz is known to drive to a black-tie event in a rented Ford Taurus.  Quietly choosing his own battlefields, Anschütz normally walks away the winner.

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