Warfield Goes After BGP

The owner of San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre is suing Bill Graham Presents for allegedly renaming the venue without consent. Among other things, the complaint reveals who’s in line to take over the theatre when BGP’s contract expires in three years.

As tipped to Pollstar in May, AEG Live is planning to lease the Warfield when BGP’s time is up in 2008. The Bill Graham organization has leased the building since 1978.

Developer David Addington, as part of a company called Warfield Theater LLC, purchased the Warfield in April. About a month later, BGP announced a deal with the SF Weekly newspaper to rename the venue SF Weekly Warfield.

The building owner filed suit in San Francisco federal court October 13th, claiming the promoter did not get permission for the new name, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Warfield Theatre LLC is seeking unspecified damages and cancellation of BGP’s lease.

In court papers, plaintiffs attorney Rita Hao reportedly said BGP has no control over naming rights to the theatre and accused the company of “attempting to undermine the Warfield Theatre name and the Warfield Theatre’s unique niche in the Bay Area music scene in order to cripple its competitors’ first foothold in the Bay Area entertainment market.”

According to the lawsuit, BGP and parent company Clear Channel Entertainment were angered that the building’s former owner, Florence Fang of SF’s influential Fang family, would not extend their lease past 2008. BGP President Lee Smith met with the theatre manager in May and threatened to harm the venue unless the lease was extended, the suit reportedly claims.

A Clear Channel spokeswoman told Pollstar the company does not comment on pending litigation. Also, CCE is in a quiet period leading up to its spinoff from Clear Channel Communications.

However, Smith told the Chronicle that he was confident his company has the right to rename the theatre.