The Madison Square Garden Company owns the Los Angeles Forum. Everyone knew the Clippers, owned by Steve Ballmer, would build their own Basketball arena somewhere in Los Angeles, but the Madison Square Garden Company didn’t think that arena would be anywhere near the LA Forum. But that thinking quickly turned into anger when the Mayor of Inglewood, James T. Butts Jr., got his hand caught in the Forum cookie jar.
The Forum and the city of Inglewood signed a deal to lease city land near the Forum and use it as an overflow parking area. The Forum also agreed to buy the property at a later date. But according to the Madison Square Garden Co. attorney Marvin Putnam, Butts and his city council breached that agreement when they entered a deal with Murphy Bowl LLC, a Clipper controlled company, to buy the land MSG was leasing for parking space. Putnam is representing MSG in the lawsuit.
MSG alleges Butts tricked them last year after terminating the lease on about 85 percent of the 23-acre city-owned land. Butts told the Madison Square Garden Co. the city was planning to build a technology park on that property. But the real reason for ending the contract with MSG was the city council made a deal with Murphy Bowl. Murphy Bowl wants to build a new home for the Clippers. That new 18,000-seat arena would also be a venue for concerts and other events that directly compete with the services the Forum offers, according to court documents. The Madison Square Garden Company believes building that new arena so close to the Forum would threaten the economic competitiveness of the Forum as well as undermine the objectives and purposes of their development agreement with the city. MSG wants the court to bar the city from pursuing the new arena as well as pay them for unspecified damages.
The real reason the Madison Square Garden Co is so upset about the shady deal is obvious even though the city terminated their deal with them in April. Butts, in a public announcement in June, said the city council approved a 36-month exclusive negotiating agreement with Murphy Bowl and city was getting a $1.5 million deposit to cover the costs of exploring the new project. MSG only found out about the deal with Murphy Bowl hours before Butts made the public announcement, and that set off the legal firestorm.
According to Marvin Putnam, Murphy Bowl, and Butts interfered with their contract with the city, and the city and Butts knowingly played them with phony claims in order to hide the fact the Forum was going to suffer from the city’s purely financial decision. The bottom line is the Madison Square Garden Co wants justice, and money to ease their suffering.
But the Clipper organization sees the commitment as a public-reviewed, fully transparent project that will bring thousands of new jobs to the city of Inglewood. In short, the new arena will be an economic win for the city and its residents, according to Chris Meany, the arena project manager. According to Meany, Murphy Bowl just received a copy of the lawsuit even though MSG was threatening a lawsuit for months. Meany said there are no new issues in the complaint. The city of Inglewood made a decision on those issues months ago, according to Meany. But Mayor Butts told the press he hasn’t read the complaint, but the members of the city council have, and they are denying MSG’s claims.
Putnam claims the mayor and the city of Inglewood displayed shocking and outrageous behavior when they decided to work with Murphy Bowl on a new arena they knew would impact the revenue stream of the Forum. Sports arena owners don’t like it when their revenue stream is under attack. According to Putnam, Butts, the council, and Murphy Bowl are blatantly causing harm to the Forum.