Report: Steve Ballmer’s Inglewood arena plan hits roadblock after alleged falsified testimony
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer’s plans to build a new arena in Inglewood have hit a roadblock after the city filed a motion on Monday, claiming a former employee is “in cahoots” with MSG, the company New York Knicks owner James Dolan runs.
The battle between Ballmer and Dolan has only just begun, considering the former city employee, Melanie McDade-Dickens, allegedly flipped parts of her sworn testimony to support the company’s claims that Inglewood fraudulently provided the land to Ballmer to build his $1 billion arena, according to Stefan Bondy and Nancy Dillon of the New York Daily News.
McDade-Dickens was placed on leave due to separate ongoing fraud investigations.
The City of Inglewood is claiming McDade-Dickens’ statements were “obviously designed to corroborate the testimony of MSG’s Irving Azoff.”
Azoff’s testimony centered on a previous dispute over termination of a lease MSG had on the land that would be used for Ballmer’s project.
Azoff is Dolan’s longtime business partner and in charge of The Forum, an entertainment venue that once served as the home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers before they moved to Staples Center.
The venue is located roughly a mile from the proposed Clippers arena site, which would make Ballmer his immediate competitor. Azoff is also one of Jeanie Buss’ good friends, and one who emailed the Lakers owner with hopes of rebuilding his venue to make the team come back after many years at Staples.
Meanwhile, MSG insists McDade-Dickens is being forthcoming:
“You guys ought to treat my client nice. MSG is going to be her best friend,” said McDade-Dickens’ attorney Carl Douglas, who has represented Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson in high-profile cases. “I’m going to have her recant her deposition testimony.”
“This reckless allegation is a complete fabrication and underscores just how desperate the City has become as evidence mounts of its fraudulent conduct concerning the Clippers arena proposal,” MSG said in a statement. “Neither MSG nor its counsel had any involvement in or prior knowledge of Ms. McDade-Dickens’ decision to correct her testimony.”
The latest court filing is only part of MSG’s lawsuit against the City of Inglewood, claiming Mayor James Butts entered a secret agreement with Ballmer to trick MSG into surrendering the acquired land. Ballmer had planned to open the arena by 2024, once the Clippers’ lease with Staples Center comes to a close. The pending court battle between Inglewood and Dolan’s MSG could prolong that timeline if it extends beyond the expected time.
The Lakers and Knicks are two of the highest-grossing teams in the NBA, rivaled only by the Golden State Warriors and their new privately financed arena in San Francisco, which could best their revenue by $250-300 million this season.