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Faithful Central Bible Church, venue operator SMG settle differences over Forum

September 9, 2010 |  1:07 pm

Faithful Central Bible Church has ended its legal battle with the former operator of the Forum in Inglewood.

The settlement puts an end to the dispute that erupted between one of the largest African American churches in the country and Pennsylvania-based SMG, the world's largest manager of convention and entertainment venues, over management of the church-owned Forum.

SMG in April sued Forum Enterprises, the church arm that owns the Forum, seeking $1.8 million in unpaid management fees. Forum sued back, claiming that SMG had charged excessive fees and mismanaged the 17,500-seat Forum, an iconic rock venue that once was home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings sports teams but has struggled to attract business in recent years.

Both sides reached an agreement this week to drop their respective claims, officials with the church and SMG said.

Under the settlement, which is still being finalized, the church has agreed to pay SMG $1.1 million from revenue generated at the Forum, said Marc T. Little, chief operating officer of Forum Enterprises.

Importantly, the settlement also clears the way for the church to refinance its $18-million mortgage on the property, which is held by Evangelical Christian Credit Union, Little said. "There was a great deal of praying the church had done, and sure enough we came out with a victory,''  he added. The court had imposed a lien on the property, which stalled a refinancing of its mortgage, pending a resolution of the litigation.

John Burns, SMG's chief financial officer, confirmed that his company was in the process of settling its dispute with Forum Enterprises but declined to comment on the terms.

Forum Enterprises paid $22 million to buy the Forum in 2000, intending to use it as a new home for its services and to build a family entertainment center that would generate jobs in an under served area of Los Angeles. But the development plans never took hold, and the 43-year-old Forum has struggled to compete with newer facilities such as the Staples Center and has become a financial strain on the church.

The church said it recently hired a new management company, Iowa-based VenuWorks, to drum up business.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Marc T. Little, left, chief operating officer of Forum Enterprises, and Kenneth Ulmer, bishop of Faithful Central Bible Church, outside the Forum in Inglewood. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times