CAA Sports is selling naming rights for the Los Angeles Clippers’ prospective arena, but that’s just part of the LA story. The agency is also tasked with finding a naming rights partner for the Forum, which Clippers owner Steve Ballmer bought for $400 million earlier this year.
Sources said CAA Sports is targeting a five- to 10-year deal for the Forum valued at $5 million to $10 million annually.
The two deals are being shopped concurrently and there could be an opportunity for one company with multiple brands to sign naming rights for both arenas, said Paul Danforth, president of CAA Sports.
“They’re two distinct, different offerings,” Danforth said. “We’re not packaging the two together, but I wouldn’t rule it out if a family of brands wanted to ‘own’ both venues. We could certainly look at a deal like that.”
Last week, the Clippers announced they had hired CAA Sports to broker naming rights for the new NBA facility, which is scheduled to open in 2024 across the street from SoFi Stadium, new home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. The Clippers will command a deal valued at about $20 million a year for a 20-year agreement, sources said.
CAA hopes to have both deals signed by the time the Clippers break ground on their new arena next fall. Danforth declined to discuss financial numbers.
The Forum opened in 1967 and had one of the early naming rights deals in sports when it was branded as the Great Western Forum in 1988. The bank’s 15-year deal expired in 2003.
After Madison Square Garden bought the Forum in 2012, it signed JPMorgan Chase as the arena’s presenting sponsor. Over the past year, the deal was adjusted to a level where Chase became the Forum’s official banking partner but was no longer presenting sponsor, which cleared the way for CAA to sell naming rights for the arena, sources said.
For the 17,505-seat Forum, the naming rights equation presents an interesting scenario for a building that’s become a top concert venue after MSG spent $100 million to upgrade the building. Ballmer acquired the Forum to settle a legal skirmish between the Clippers and MSG over the team’s plan to build a new arena down the street.
The Forum reopened in 2014 after MSG’s renovations. Last year, it placed fifth in ticket revenue among North America venues with a capacity of 10,001-15,000, Pollstar data shows. The arena’s 80 shows produced 840,205 tickets sold.
It has not had a sports tenant since the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings left for Staples Center in 1999.
Four years from now, two arenas with 17,000-plus seats will sit a few blocks apart, leading to speculation that Ballmer will ultimately tear the Forum down and sell a valuable piece of land for commercial development. The Clippers, however, remain committed to keeping the Forum open.
On May 4, the day the purchase was completed, the Clippers announced the formation of Forum Entertainment LLC to run the 53-year-old arena. Geni Lincoln, the Forum’s vice president of booking and marketing, and Mike Fallon, vice president of arena operations, remain in place. They report to Gillian Zucker, the Clippers’ president of business operations.
The Forum still presents value for the right partner, sports marketers said.
“It’s certainly valuable for someone to be associated with an iconic venue,” said Rob Yowell, president and founder of Gemini Sports Group. “I don’t think it’s going to be a huge number. It lends itself to a secondary brand, maybe a tech company or someone that has a product that they really want to promote in the live entertainment space. A five-year deal gets them some press and bang out of it.”
A group of CAA Sports’ executives in Los Angeles, New York, Europe and China are working on both the new Clippers arena and the Forum deals, Danforth said. The improvements at the Forum and the role it plays as one of the premier concert experiences in LA brings value to the bargaining table for the right partner, he said.
Overall, it’s a competitive landscape for naming rights in the Los Angeles market. LAFC is back in the market searching for a new naming rights partner after Banc of California announced in May that it was terminating its stadium agreement two years into its 15-year, $100 million deal. The bank remains LAFC’s official banking partner.
“They all have something unique to offer,” said Dan Griffis, president of OVG Global Partnerships. (Oak View Group owns VenuesNow). “LAFC has done a heck of a job developing their brand in the LA market. They have a new building and an avid fan base, and those are two good things to have for selling naming rights.”
CAA Sports sold Chase Center’s naming rights in a 20-year deal reportedly valued at $19 million annually, and Griffis thinks the number for the Clippers’ arena will most likely exceed the terms for the San Francisco venue.
“It’s got to start with a 2; anything less and Ballmer is making a mistake,” Griffis said. “It’s the NBA (and) it’s LA, which is the No. 2 media market. That arena could be used for the (2028) Olympics, which has value. They have every opportunity to do it. Golden State got it done. Why not LA?”
Gillian Zucker was not available for comment.