After he was in business a couple of years, he later told the Colorado Historical Society in a 1974 interview, he experienced a crisis, which he referred to as "the most important single event" in his business career. A well he owned a stake in struck oil and soon caught fire.
Over the next several days, working on little sleep, Anschutz persuaded the other stakeholder to increase Anschutz's share in the well if Anschutz could contain the blaze. He then sought out Red Adair, a famous firefighter who later put out the oil well fires during the Gulf War. In part to pay Adair, Anschutz persuaded a movie studio to pay him $100,000 to film Adair putting out his well fire for a 1967 John Wayne film called "Hellfighters." The fire was put out and Anschutz saved his business.
Jerry McMorris, left, former Colorado Rockies executive, sits with Philip F. Anschutz, whose investment in sports and entertainment has been massive.
(David Zalubowski -- AP)
Anschutz went on to uncover one of the country's largest natural gas reserves in Wyoming. In 1982, he sold half his interest in the Anschutz Ranch East Field for $500 million, catapulting him to No. 13 on Forbes's list of the richest Americans. He next invested in railroads, and through his control of railroad rights of way, he was able to build Qwest's fiber-optic network.
Qwest went public in 1997, and at its peak, its stock boosted Anschutz's personal fortune to $18 billion, according to Forbes. However, it turned out that Qwest and its competitors overbuilt fiber-optic capacity. The demand they anticipated never materialized. In 2002, Qwest announced it would restate $1 billion in earnings.
Qwest last month agreed to pay $250 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges of fraudulently booking $3.8 billion in revenue over three years. Two former Qwest executives pleaded guilty to fraud; two were acquitted. Authorities have not implicated Anschutz in any wrongdoing.
In 2002, New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer sued Anschutz and four telecom executives, accusing Anschutz of making $1.5 billion in "unjust enrichment revenue," including the sale of initial-public-offering stock Anschutz received in the hopes he would steer investment banking business to Citigroup Inc. Anschutz and Spitzer reached an agreement in which Anschutz admitted no wrongdoing and later paid $4.4 million to law schools and charities, and Spitzer agreed to drop the suit.
That same year, Anschutz stepped down as Qwest's non-executive chairman. Anschutz remains on Qwest's board and still has 80 percent of his original Qwest holdings, which have lost significant value.
A Matter of Values
He has since focused his attention on building a global entertainment and sports business. He is a part owner of the $407 million Staples Center, home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings.
Anschutz is also the largest shareholder in Regal Entertainment, which he created in 2000 by combining three movie theater chains that had filed for bankruptcy protection: United Artists Theatre Co., Regal Cinemas, and Edwards Theatres. In the past 12 months, Regal, now a public company, paid out two large dividends. Anschutz netted $710 million. He had invested $500 million to create Regal.
Anschutz took on movie making, too. In 2000, he formed a film production company, Crusader Entertainment -- recently renamed Bristol Bay Productions. "He believes there is a huge untapped market for things families can do together. That doesn't mean it's a family values agenda," said James Monaghan, an Anschutz spokesman. "He found in raising his [three] kids there is not a lot of things he could go to with them."
As a producer, Anschutz has a clear idea of what he wants his films to say, said Angelo Pizzo, a screenwriter Crusader hired to write what Pizzo called "a family-friendly inspirational soccer movie." Pizzo, who penned hits such as "Hoosiers," and "Rudy," said Anschutz called him several times, including late at night, with suggestions. "His concern is not the craft. It's the points made, in terms of the message," Pizzo said. "He cares about sending a positive inspirational message to young people."
In a rare public speech in February, reported by the Wall Street Journal, Anschutz told the audience: "My friends think I'm a candidate for a lobotomy, and my competitors think I'm naive or stupid or both. But you know what? I don't care. If we can make some movies that have a positive effect on people's lives and on our culture, that's enough for me."
His purchases this year of the San Francisco Examiner and the Journal Newspapers, weak publications in competitive markets, led some in San Francisco to wonder if he wants to send a particular message through his newspapers. "People have the yips about a conservative owner owning a paper in a liberal town," said Christopher Caen, a columnist for the Examiner.
"When he bought the Examiner, we thought, 'What the hell is this guy doing?' Its business prospects were not phenomenal," said Tim Redmond, executive editor of the liberal San Francisco Bay Guardian. "When we found out who he was, we were nervous he was going to bring his Christian-evangelical politics to San Francisco."