Madison Square Garden Company, owner of The Forum in Inglewood, moved forward with a lawsuit against the city. (file photo)

The Madison Square Garden Company, owner of The Forum in Inglewood, filed a lawsuit March 5,  against the city and its mayor James Butts for “violating the city’s contractual commitments in order to clear the way for a new Clippers arena in Inglewood, just down the street from The Forum” and, “defrauding The Forum”  respectively.  

“The Forum has been a proud member of Inglewood’s fabric since it first opened its doors 50 years ago, and we have nothing but respect and affection for our home community,” said Marvin Putnam of Latham & Watkins LLP, counsel for The Forum’s owner. 

“Unfortunately, the shocking and outrageous conduct of the mayor, city officials and others have forced us to seek accountability in the courts in order to protect The Forum.” 

MSG officials claim in the suit that Butts had been less than honest with them in order for them to give up its purchasing option for about 15 acres of city owned land that they secured, they said for overflow parking during events held at The Forum. However, they said Butts conducted “secret negotiations with the Clippers to deprive The Forum of the very land it had leased from the city.  

“The city needed that land for the Clippers arena,” they said. 

“Knowing The Forum needed the land for parking and would not give up its lease for a competitive arena literally down the street, the city secretly negotiated with the Clippers.” 

Butts said he is not at liberty to discuss the suit, nor did he seem bothered by it.  

“The city of Inglewood continues to cherish its relationship with The Madison Square Garden Company and Live Nation,” he said in a statement released to the Sentinel on Tuesday.  

“Working together, we have seen The Forum become one of the top concert venues in the country.  

“We disagree on the City’s right to self-determination and the scope of that right.  The Inglewood city Council’s first responsibility is to its residents and their quality of life while ensuring continued progress, opportunities for employment, and improved public safety.    

“I still believe that we will be able to come together and find an amicable resolution.  

“To that end, the city of Inglewood has a policy of not discussing pending litigation because ultimately that is for the court to decide, but I do want to say that life goes on unabated for both The Forum and the city of Inglewood.” 

Butts told the Sentinel in an interview last year that he does not feel that the city owes MSG officials the purchase option of the vacant lot.  

“Here in 2017, we have people who believe that they can tell a Black and Brown city the constraints of your dreams; that we need their permission to do greater and greater things, and we don’t agree with that,” Butts told a Sentinel reporter last fall.  

“Within the last four years, the city has acquired two [NFL] football teams, the number one concert venue in the state, and moving on to an NBA team.  That anyone would deem to say, ‘now, we have decided the constraints of your aspirations … We are a city that took responsibility and did the tough things to stabilize ourselves financially, to renew our infrastructure, take care of our streets, our trees, our sidewalks, our water system. We improved public safety and then we reached out and positioned ourselves to bring back entertainment and made good partnerships that led the city to where it is right now. 

“There’s where the irony was, that with doing all of the things that we’ve done to make ourselves probably the new sports entertainment capital of Southern California, we, still at this point, have to fight for the right to self-determination.  And that’s the irony. You don’t see Black and Brown cities in the position that we are, that come as far as we have in four years…” 

According to reports from NBC Los Angeles, the lawsuit contains a timeline of discussions between Forum officials and Butts, showing it was MSG Forum that initially discussed the possibility of moving the Clippers to The Forum when the team’s lease at Staples Center expires, “but that proposal never advanced. But the suit accuses Butts of then engaging in secret talks with the team to build a separate arena. 

“The suit also contends that in January of 2017, Butts asked Forum officials not to use his official city email account for communications, directing them instead to use his personal Gmail account in an apparent effort to prevent ‘a paper trail evidencing his bad acts,’” the news report said.  

The Forum was erected in 1967.  It had been the home of the world famous Lakers until about 2000, when they left for the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.  The Clippers have shared Staples Center with the Lakers since then.  

Reporter Kimberlee Buck contributed to this report