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Clippers boost arena plan with $400m Forum deal

Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has sealed a $400m (£334.8m/€369.2m) deal to acquire The Forum, furthering the NBA basketball team’s claims to deliver a new arena and removing the obstacle of legal action from Madison Square Garden Company (MSG).

Through the newly-formed CAPSS LLC, Ballmer and Clippers vice-chairman Dennis Wong have agreed to purchase the Forum from MSG for $400m in cash. The Forum opened in 1967 and hosted the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and NHL ice hockey team the Los Angeles Kings until they left for Staples Center in 1999.

MSG acquired the Forum in 2012 and has spent a reported $100m on revamping the arena, which has now been repurposed as a venue for major concerts and combat sports events. The Forum was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and CAPSS plans to retain it as a concert venue.

Crucially the deal also resolves all litigation with MSG, which has been a vocal opponent of Ballmer’s plans to move the Clippers to a new 18,500-seat arena in Inglewood. In January, MSG filed a lawsuit against California Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee over plans relating to the new Inglewood arena. The suit claimed that Assembly Bill 987, which was passed in 2018, violated state constitution. The bill was said to be passed to protect the Clippers arena project from extended legal action relating to environmental issues.

The Forum is located less than two miles from the proposed site for the new arena. MSG was part of three lawsuits to block the arena project, accusing Inglewood’s Mayor, James T. Butts, of persuading the Company to release land for a supposed technology park that later became part of the Clippers project.

The Los Angeles Times newspaper said a community group whose legal fees are being paid by MSG also has one pending suit and another it is appealing. Murphy’s Bowl LLC, the Clippers-controlled firm developing the new arena, countersued MSG last year.

“We are looking forward to putting the legal issues behind us,” the Clippers said in a statement. “This will allow us to focus on delivering world-class experiences for music fans and building a new arena that will provide a unique environment and a true home court advantage for Clippers fans.”

MSG added: “This is the best resolution for all parties involved and we wish the new owners every success.”

In July, the Clippers revealed the first images of the planned new arena and the team has said its “community benefit plan” would be the largest of its type for a stadium or entertainment venue developed in the state of California.

The Clippers have played at Staples Center, owned and operated by AEG, since 1999. Ballmer, is planning to move the Clippers to the privately financed $1.2bn development anchored by an 18,500-seat arena, in time for the completion of its lease deal at Staples Center in 2024. The proposed complex is across the street from SoFi Stadium, which will be the home of the NFL’s Rams and Chargers from this summer.

The Times noted that challenges still remain for the project. Inglewood City Council has yet to certify its environmental impact review, which was released in December. Construction has been pencilled in to begin in mid-2021, but a ruling on the review is expected in the summer, followed by a 270-day window for legal challenges.

Commenting on The Forum deal, Ballmer added: “This is an unprecedented time, but we believe in our collective future. We are committed to our investment in the City of Inglewood, which will be good for the community, the Clippers, and our fans.”

Image: MSG