Just hours after the line-up of this year's Coachella festival was made public, stories about how its owner financed anti-gay and climate-change-denying groups started to make headlines. Phil Anschutz, one of the richest men in America, owns Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the world's largest owner of sports teams and venues. AEG, in turn, owns Goldenvoice, the once-independent group of promoters responsible for organizing the Coachella and Desert Trip festivals.
The former oil tycoon has long been known as a supporter of anti-gay groups, even earning a place on LGBTQ rights group Freedom for All Americans' list of “Enemies of Equality.” As the festival that his company owns is gearing up for yet another successful year, stories of the billionaire's controversial donations have resurfaced. Anschutz, however, has refuted these claims, calling them “fake news” and “garbage.”
“I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation,” Anschutz wrote. We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us – the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form.”
The CEO, however, did not deny contributing to such groups in the past, however. According to Freedom for All Americans, the Anschutz Foundation donated to three anti-LGBTQ groups - Alliance Defending Freedom, the National Christian Foundation, and the Family Research Council - between 2010 and 2013. A New Yorker profile from 2012 reported that Anschutz “contributed to the Institute for American Values, whose founder, David Blankenhorn, opposes same-sex marriage.”
The same article reported that the businessman has sued the IRS “at least seven times since 1987” to get out of paying taxes, and “has been a guest at the twice-a-year political gatherings of David and Charles Koch, the secretive anti-government oil billionaires.” The festival owner has also reportedly “contributed to Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch brothers, which lobbies against global-warming science and for reducing regulation of the oil and gas industry.”
Anschutz reportedly donated to a Colorado group who fought against the legalization of marijuana, a substance which is undoubtedly quite popular among Coachella festival-goers. In light of these accusations, some are considering a boycott of the festival, although it is worth remembering that Goldenvoice are still free to book and manage the festival without Anschutz's direct involvement.