Citizen Anschutz

Qwest founder and billionaire Philip Anschutz has just purchased the San Francisco Examiner, and his faith is an overlooked factor in the earliest coverage. The prevailing theme is of how press-averse Anschutz has been for most of his career. The New York Observer has left a trail of tantalizing hints, however, in an article from March 2001:

Mr. Anschutz, 61 -- whose net worth is listed at $18 billion in Forbes -- has, in a little over a year, taken hold of three of the nation's largest movie-theater chains and launched, along with Empower, the Los Angeles-based Crusader Entertainment. (The preachy titles are no coincidence: He's devoutly religious.) . . .

Early [in 2000], Mr. Anschutz started his first production company, Crusader, with producer Howard Baldwin, a longtime friend who is a part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. They make an odd pair: Mr. Anschutz is a by-the-book Evangelical Presbyterian who gives generously to the media watchdog group Morality in Media; Mr. Baldwin had worked on the straight-to-video soft-porn series Night Eyes (one online reviewer wrote: "I swear, I think that this is the biggest amount of sex scenes I've ever seen in a movie!!!") and the Jean-Claude Van Damme hockey-terrorism picture, Sudden Death.

Crusader Entertainment has taken on an unpredictable variety of projects in its short history: Joshua (a widely derided film based on the Rev. Joseph Girzone's retelling of Jesus' life), Children on Their Birthdays (based on a short story by Truman Capote); Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story; and Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand's novel that's been a rite of passage for so many college students).

Walden Media, a subsidiary of Anschutz Entertainment, is producing a film of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

In October 1998 Los Angeles magazine offered this glimpse of Anschutz as a savvy negotiator:

Long Beach city councilman Ray Grabinski was chairman of the Los Angeles Transportation Commission six years ago when he sat across the negotiating table from Anschutz trying to buy a piece of the Taylor Railroad Yard. Anschutz kept writing numbers on slips of papers he held in the palm of his hand. He never raised his voice, never lost his cool. "Part of his toughness," says Grabinski, "is that he never gives the impression that he's pushing anyone around. It's almost as if he were really on your side."

How his business savvy and his faith interact in the newspaper business -- in San Francisco, no less -- will be a story worth watching in the months ahead.

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