If Knicks owner James Dolan sometimes seems disinterested or unmoved by his NBA team’s ongoing futility, it may be because he’s too preoccupied with meddling in other business ventures clear across the country. In 2012, he and MSG partner Irving Azoff, a music industry titan, purchased the old Lakers Forum in Inglewood with designs of turning it into a multi-use entertainment venue, which has set off a chain of events involving his company, the Clippers, a mayoral race, and more.
Dolan and MSG spent two years and reportedly more than $100 million in renovations, only to discover that they’ll eventually face some stiff competition in the form of the Los Angeles Clippers, whose owner Steve Ballmer plans on relocating the team to Inglewood with a new arena by 2024 that will surely siphon off some of the acts that pass through town.
Ballmer and the Clippers have been in negotiations with the city ever since on a potential deal that has garnered support from long-time mayor James Butts. But in an effort to try to regain his slippery grasp on his investment, Dolan has done just about everything in his power to sabotage those dealings, including his attempts to influence the city’s recent mayoral election by providing significant financial backing to a dubious candidate he believed would take up his mantle, while lobbying others in Hollywood to do the same.
Via Stefan Bondy and Nancy Dillon of The New York Daily News:
They backed a big-time loser for mayor in Marc Little, who received just 18 percent of the votes in the November election. Dolan testified that he approved of MSG company contributing big bucks – variously described as around $700,000 and $900,000 in his deposition – to Little’s campaign, while Azoff, through his connections, raised more. Butts also benefited from a push by Ballmer.
Not coincidentally, donations for Little in this suburban mayoral race arrived from L.A. power players with connections to MSG like Kris Jenner (Keeping Up With The Kardashians), David Geffen (music mogul), Linda Rambis (Lakers) and Joe Walsh (with the Eagles group, managed by Azoff).
The problem with all of this, of course, is that Ballmer has just as much money and just as many connections in California to counterbalance Dolan’s tactics. He also has the league on his side, as giving the Clippers their own venue would solve numerous scheduling challenges throughout the NBA season, not to mention generate considerably more revenue for both the organization and the city of Inglewood.
In order to placate Dolan, commissioner Adam Silver even tried brokering a peace treaty between the two, suggesting MSG get a cut of the profits from entertainment acts that go to the new arena, although Dolan apparently balked at that idea. Further, Dolan has reportedly even tried to convince Lakers owner Jeanie Buss to relocate the team to the newly-remolded Forum, but she quickly passed.
“It was clear Jeanie didn’t want to have a discussion about it, with me at least,” Dolan said in testimony. “So she basically acknowledged that I was enthusiastic and changed the subject.”
Amid all this distraction, the Knicks once again struck out big time in free agency this summer, then compounded that with embarrassing revelations about their tactics this offseason, namely their reluctance to offer Kevin Durant — for years now their free agent white whale — a max deal because of his injury.
Instead, they’ve had to settle for Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Reggie Bullock, and Marcus Morris — whose own signing was not without its controversy — and face yet another squandered season with very little to be optimistic about in the near future.