Mayor of Inglewood, James T. Butts Jr., Accused of Dishonest Negotiations

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A lawsuit filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday alleges that the mayor of Inglewood, James T. Butts Jr., negotiated a backroom deal with Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer to build a new arena a mile and a half from the historic Forum Arena.

Madison Square Garden, the owner of Forum Arena, filed the 46-page lawsuit that is the most recent turn of events in the escalating fight between the two sides. The complaint alleges that Mayor Butts convinced MSG through fraudulent meant into relinquishing the rights to 15 acres of land while involved in secret negotiations with Ballmer to build the new arena on the land.

Marvin Putnam, the attorney that filed the lawsuit on behalf of MSG, said via a prepared statement that the actions on the part of Mayor Butts, city officials for the city of Inglewood, and others involved made it necessary to address the matter with the courts.

Other details of the complaint state that MSG spent $100 million on renovations to the forum and transformed the arena where many of the memorable moments of the Los Angeles Lakers glory days took place into a venue that showcases live music events. The arena that is being proposed by Ballmer would, in addition to being the new home to the Clippers, host concerts and other live shows and would become a direct competitor of the Forum.

MSG explains that Butts was being purposely dishonest when he said that the city would use the land to house a ‘technology park’ that would bring new business interests to the city of Inglewood. MSG expressed “shock” and dismay at learning that the proposed technology park was actually the Clippers Arena.

The suit accuses Butts of avoiding a paper trail by making use of cell phones and personal email accounts when speaking with MSG about ending the agreement that allowed them to lease the land in question.

The city of Inglewood, located not far from Los Angeles is undergoing a recent rise in construction as a new stadium being built there will be home to both Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers of the National Football League. Ballmer and the Clippers made an announcement in June that the team had made an agreement with the city of Inglewood to explore the possibilities of building a new sports complex there. Inglewood agreed last month that the project is being explored.

Chris Meany, the man entrusted with managing the arena proposal for the Clippers, said in a recent statement that MSG has made threats regarding lawsuits for a while now and that the current complaint is filled with issues that have already been articulated and dismissed by the city. However, the MSG camp disagrees.

Representatives for the city of Inglewood have not yet commented on the matter and Butts has said that he has not yet examined the lawsuit.

Ballmer, who in the past was the CEO for Microsoft Corporation purchased the Clippers in 2014 at a price tag of $2 billion. This was at a time when the National Basketball Association was threatening to take over operations of the team from owner Donald Sterling in response to negative racial remarks made by Sterling.

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