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As fans await the future of NFL football in Tinseltown, Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger has raised the stakes. Carson Holdings, the joint venture of the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, announced Wednesday that Iger will serve as its non-executive chairman. The Disney chief will work with the city of Carson on the potential construction of a new Los Angeles NFL stadium.
"I think this is a game changer," said Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis.
With his background in entertainment and sports, Iger brings resources and respect to the project, Rishe said. Disney owns key sports networks ESPN and ABC.
The NFL has been without a Los Angeles team since 1994, when the Raiders left for Oakland and the Rams moved to St. Louis. Three teams — the Rams, Raiders and San Diego Chargers — have put forth plans to move back to the L.A. market.
The proposed Carson plan would open the door for the Chargers and Raiders to share a 168-acre, $1.7 billion stadium. Rams owner Stan Kroenke proposed his own $1.86 billion stadium plan in Inglewood, California.
Rishe says Iger's involvement will help get the needed votes to push the project forward.
"Should the owners approve the move, Los Angeles will proudly welcome two incredible teams to our community and build a stadium worthy of their fans," Iger said in a statement. "L.A. football fans will enjoy unprecedented access to games during the season, in a state-of-the-art stadium designed to deliver the most entertaining, exciting and enjoyable experience possible."
The deal is contingent upon NFL owners' approval. As part of the five-year deal, Iger will have the opportunity to acquire a minority, non-controlling equity ownership interest in either the Raiders or Chargers, an option that he says he won't exercise until he departs his role as Disney's chairman and CEO in 2018 when his contract expires.
Iger will also be responsible for hiring Carson Holdings' president, who will oversee everything from design and construction of the stadium to the fan experience.
Meanwhile, all three clubs and local officials are in New York on Wednesday to discuss progress with NFL officials. A decision on if and when a team will relocate to Los Angeles isn't expected until January.