The owners of The Forum concert venue have filed a claim for damages -- a precursor to a lawsuit -- against the city of Inglewood for quietly entering into a deal to build a new Los Angeles Clippers arena just down the street.
The Madison Square Garden Co. says Inglewood Mayor James Butts used a bait-and-switch strategy to coerce Forum executives into clearing the way for the project on a Century Boulevard parcel across from the NFL stadium now under construction, the Daily Breeze reported. They say Butts persuaded them to give up their leasehold in April on part of a parking lot to make way for a new business-technology park.
Instead, in June, city officials shocked MSG by announcing their deal with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer for a 18,000- to 20,000-seat arena that would likely also host concerts on the site 11/2 miles south.
"The mayor made it extremely clear that he needed that piece of land back for a kind of 'Silicon Beach,'?" said Marvin Putnam, a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins, which filed the damage claim that serves as a precursor to a lawsuit, according to the Breeze. "They're attempting to flat-out trick people."
Butts declined to comment. When Madison Square Garden Co. relinquished the parking lease to the city, its approved contract states that the land would not be used for anything that would hurt the Forum's business, according to documents.
"We, along with the hundreds of hardworking men and women who work to bring top-flight entertainment events to the Forum, are stunned that the city is moving forward with a plan that is in direct conflict with its existing and clear-cut written commitments to our venue," Forum officials said in a statement.
The Inglewood City Council approved the exclusive-negotiating agreement with Ballmer on June 15, which was secured with a $1.5 million payment to the city. The deal gives the two parties three years to negotiate for the new arena at the corner of Century Boulevard and Yukon Avenue. Ballmer wants to move the NBA team from Staples Center, which is shared with the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings, to a new state-of-the-art facility.
The team's Los Angeles lease is up in 2024.
The claim for damages was submitted Wednesday.