The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., is owned by The Madison Square Garden Co., which made it a music-only venue.

Move by Clippers’ owner comes amid legal fight over planned arena

Steve Ballmer, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, is in negotiations to buy the Forum from The Madison Square Garden Co., according to a source as well as multiple published reports that surfaced Sunday night and which first broke.

The news comes amid a legal battle between MSG and both the city of Inglewood and Ballmer dating to 2018 and stemming from Ballmer’s intention to develop a nearby arena estimated to cost $1 billion.

The Clippers issued the following statement: “The Clippers continue to pursue plans to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat basketball arena and entertainment complex in Inglewood and are currently working with the city to successfully complete the comprehensive Environmental Impact Report. We are examining every possible way to resolve our differences with Madison Square Garden Co. regarding our new arena.”

MSG officials declined to comment.

Ballmer bought the Clippers from Donald Sterling in 2014 for $2 billion. The team plays its home games at the AEG-owned Staples Center and signed a 10-year agreement to remain tenants in the downtown Los Angeles arena through the 2023-24 NBA season. The Clippers are the third tenant at Staples Center behind the Los Angeles and Los Angeles Kings. AEG owns the Kings and has a 30 percent stake in the Lakers. As a result, the dynamic leaves the Clippers with fewer prime dates compared with the other two teams.

Ballmer has wanted to build a new arena in time for the 2024-25 season on a parcel of land roughly a half-mile from the Forum and across the street from $5 billion SoFi Stadium, which Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke will open for his NFL team and the Los Angeles Chargers this summer.  The Clippers, who now practice in Playa Vista, would bring the team’s operations, corporate headquarters and training facility to Inglewood.

Ballmer’s purchase of the Forum, capacity 17,505, would remove a major obstacle to building a new arena, which is being designed by AECOM and will be built by the joint venture of AECOM Hunt and Turner Construction. It is unclear whether the Forum would continue as a music-only venue or exist at all after the opening of the new arena.

Worldwide, the Forum was No. 7 on VenuesNow’s 2019 Year-End Top Stops in the 15,001-30,000 Capacity category ranked by tickets sold. The “Fabulous Forum,” as it’s known, opened in 1967 and was home to the “Showtime” Lakers before the team moved to Staples Center in 1999.

Acquiring the Forum would be a big step for the Clippers in terms of booking special events at their new arena apart from NBA games.

Some industry experts have questioned how a third LA arena would compete against the Forum and Staples Center. MSG has close ties to Live Nation, the world’s top concert promoter. AEG owns and operates Staples Center, and its AEG Presents is the second-biggest promoter. All things being equal, Live Nation and AEG historically book their tours in the buildings where they hold a financial stake and have the strongest relationships.

MSG, which also owns Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre in New York City and the Chicago Theatre, acquired the Forum in 2012 from the Faithful Central Bible Church in a $23.5 million deal. The building reopened with a series of six Eagles concerts that began in January 2014 after a $100 million renovation that included state-of the-art audio and premium spaces including the Forum Club.

Irving Azoff, now chairman and CEO of The Azoff Co. (and co-founder of Oak View Group, parent company of VenuesNow) formed a joint venture in 2013 with the Madison Square Garden Co. to run the newly-formed Azoff MSG Entertainment. The agreement ran until October 2018, when The Azoff Co. bought out MSG’s interest. The Azoff Co. has continued to advise MSG, including the Forum and development of the MSG Spheres in Las Vegas and London.

According to ESPN, the Forum would continue to operate at least until the new arena was built and possibly longer.

SoFi Stadium is part of a massive development that is part of the LA Stadium & Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, a mixed-use development on the site of a former racetrack slated to also include a performance arts venue, office space, residential units, a luxury hotel, public parks, a lake and mass-transit access.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised since it was originally posted.