Clippers buy Forum for $400 million, clearing way for new arena construction

Steve Ballmer finally has an arena in Inglewood as part of a deal that paves the way for the Clippers’ billionaire owner to construct a second in the location — the building he has wanted all along.

Through a newly formed entity, CAPSS LLC, Ballmer has agreed to purchase the Forum from Madison Square Garden Co. for $400 million in cash, the team announced Tuesday.

The deal is expected to close during the 2020 second quarter. The new ownership group has no plans to tear down the Forum, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014, and will keep it operating as a concert venue.

Critically for Ballmer and the Clippers, the agreement will also remove an opponent that had long sought to block the construction of Ballmer’s proposed, privately funded arena by resolving all litigation with MSG, whose executive chairman is New York Knicks owner James Dolan.

The Clippers’ billion-dollar arena would sit less than two miles away from the Forum on West Century Boulevard, and be part of a larger Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Complex that would house team offices, a practice facility and public outdoor spaces.

MSG was part of three lawsuits to block the arena project and accused Inglewood’s mayor, James T. Butts, of persuading the company to give up land for a supposed technology park that later became part of the Clippers’ arena project. 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 company 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.”

The legal back-and-forth was costing both MSG and Murphy’s Bowl millions of dollars in legal fees each month, a person not authorized to speak publicly said this month.

“This is the best resolution for all parties involved and we wish the new owners every success,” MSG said in a statement.

MSG purchased the Forum in 2012 for $23.5 million and then began $100 million in renovations to transform the longtime former home of the Lakers and Kings into an 11,000-seat concert venue. CAPSS LLC will not take over operation of the Forum until late June or early July, once the deal is finalized, but said it will extend employment offers to all current Forum employees.

Hurdles remain for the construction of the Clippers arena. The Inglewood City Council has yet to certify the project’s environmental impact review, which was released in December. That is expected to take place this summer and would open a 270-day window for legal challenges to be adjudicated, a process that could end only a few months before construction is set to begin in mid-2021.

The Clippers’ lease at Staples Center, the downtown arena they have shared with the Kings and Lakers since 1999, ends in 2024. The Clippers hope to open their arena in time for the 2024-25 NBA season.

“This is an unprecedented time, but we believe in our collective future,” Ballmer said in a statement. “We are committed to our investment in the City of Inglewood, which will be good for the community, the Clippers, and our fans.”