Forum Sues City Of Inglewood, Mayor And Parking Authority Over Clippers Negotiation

Mayor of Inglewood
Kelvin Kuo/AP
– Mayor of Inglewood
James T. Butts Jr. talks during an NFL football news conference in Inglewood, Calif.

The company that owns the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., made good March 5 on its threat to sue the city, Mayor James Butts, its redevelopment agency, city council, parking authority, and Murphy’s Bowl LLC – a company held by the L.A. Clippers NBA team – over a parking lot lease.

It’s not just any parking lot, however. Inglewood and Murphy’s Bowl last year signed an exclusive negotiating agreement to consider turning that lot and some adjacent property into a new arena for the Clippers – and for concerts – less than 1.5 miles from the Forum.

It would also share close quarters with the NFL stadium being developed as home field for the L.A. Rams and Chargers, on the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack.

According to the complaint, Butts told MSG Forum, LLC they needed the 15 acres of parking lot real estate in April 2017 not for an arena, but for a “technology park” or Silicon Beach attraction – and they needed it immediately. MSG Forum agreed to terminate the lease on that basis, thinking a compatible, not competing, project was going in.

MSG Forum is a subsidiary of Madison Square Garden Co., an affiliate of Oak View Group (parent company of Pollstar).

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Mayor Butts induced the Forum to give up a lease and purchase option on the land two months before Inglewood and the Clippers made public their exclusive negotiations to potentially put a competing venue on the property. MSG Forum accuses Butts of secretly negotiating with the Clippers beginning in January 2017, despite the lease and exclusive purchase option held by the Forum.

MSG Forum filed notice of claims against the city, Butts, and other defendants in July and an amended notice in October, both of which were routinely denied.

The 46-page, nine-count lawsuit seeks declaratory relief and damages to be proven at trial. The charges include breaches of a development agreement, parking lease, and the lease’s termination. It specifically accuses Butts of fraud, claiming the mayor moved communications regarding the property to private email and cell phones in order to avoid leaving a city paper trail in the matter. And, ultimately, it wants the lease termination agreement rescinded and the lease restored to control of the Forum.

“We are surprised and saddened that Mayor Butts and the City of Inglewood have taken dead aim at the forum through their orchestrated scheme,” attorney Marvin Putnam of the firm Lathm & Watkins said in a statement. “On behalf of community members, music fans and forum employees, we are committed to energetically defend this beloved Inglewood institution.”

Pollstar unable to reach Butts or an Inglewood city council spokesperson at press time.