Could the long-dormant and lawsuit-plagued KAABOO festival be on its way back to Del Mar?
Now, after multiple ownership changes, it is poised to return to the fairgrounds, which hosted KAABOO for five years, starting in 2015. The fair leadership votes on the move Tuesday.
After being dormant for the past four years and mired in multiple lawsuits, the KAABOO music festival could be set to return to the Del Mar Fairgrounds in 2024, pending a Tuesday, Sept. 12, vote of approval by the board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the fairgrounds.
“We look forward to discussing with our board the possibility of bringing KAABOO back to the Del Mar Fairgrounds next year,” Carlene Moore, the association’s CEO, told the San Diego Union-Tribune via email Monday.
Moore declined a request to answer any questions regarding the upscale festival, which has been shrouded in controversy since it ground to a halt four years ago.
The fate of the dormant upscale music festival, which is mired in litigation in several states, remains unclear. Some ticketholders have gone two years seeking, but failing to obtain, refunds
The three-day annual event — then known as KAABOO Del Mar — was held at the fairgrounds from its inception in 2015 until its fifth edition in 2019. Three-day passes for the 2019 edition of KAABOO Del Mar, which drew a sell-out crowd, cost up to $20,000 each.
The final day of the 2019 festival saw KAABOO’s then-new owners announce a multiyear partnership with the San Diego Padres, a planned move to downtown’s Petco Park and a new name: KAABOO San Diego.
But that move never materialized. First, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the the shutdown of all live events. Then, a legal dispute erupted between the Padres and KAABOO that led to both organizations suing each other last year in lawsuits filed in both San Diego and Delaware.
The team — which operates Petco Park — alleged a breach of contract, while KAABOO maintained the contract had never been finalized. The Padres’ lawsuit sought to have KAABOO pay a penalty of approximately $2 million in return for the Padres allowing the festival to resume in Del Mar, or anywhere else within a 100-mile radius of the baseball stadium.
“The issue with the Padres has been resolved,” Tristan Hallman, chief communications officer for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, told the Union-Tribune on Monday. “We received assurances from the Padres prior to entering into negotiations with (KAABOO’s current operators).”
Padres CEO Erik Greupner and other team representatives did not respond to a request for comment Monday from the Union-Tribune. Neither did Pittsburgh- and Los Angeles-based legal representatives for the owners of KAABOO involved in the lawsuits filed last year.
However, someone familiar with the situation told the Union-Tribune on Monday that “the Padres are no longer affiliated with KAABOO.” The source said they could not comment on the status of the litigation between the team and the festival’s current operators.
Multiple ownership changes
KAABOO underwent at least three changes of ownership since 2019. Virgin Fest — a company headed by former Del Mar resident Jason Felts — acquired KAABOO in September 2019 for $10 million from its co-founders, Bryan E. Gordon and Seth Wolkov. The two sued Felts and Virgin Fest two months later, alleging “a Trojan Horse strategy” to “infiltrate KAABOO” and “take possession of its most valuable assets.”
Felts and Virgin Fest countersued, alleging KAABOO’s financial viability had been misrepresented by Gordon. He was also sued in 2019 by Molly Kingston, his former wife, who alleged Gordon had misappropriated $22 million from the couple’s holding company to help fund KAABOO. Also in 2019, the sole editions of KAABOO Cayman and KAABOO Texas were held. The lettare resulted in lawsuits being filed against Gordon by investors.
KAABOO Texas will debut May 10-12 with The Killers, Kid Rock and Sting headlining.
As of mid-2021, Gordon faced at least six lawsuits related to KAABOO, not including the one filed by the Padres. Felts, who was a party to the lawsuit against the Padres, stepped down in 2020 and this year retired at the age of 45. He did so after Florida real estate magnate Marc Hagle, the CEO and president of Tricor International, LLC, paid a reported $23 million to acquire Virgin Fest and KAABOO.
The 2020 debut edition of Virgin Fest Los Angeles was announced but did not take place and Virgin Fest appears to have since ceased to exist.
In 2021, a Hagle-controlled company transferred licensing rights to KAABOO’s name and brand to Live Holdings and Festival Licensing and Acquisition Corporation, LLC. That Delaware-based holding company is also known as FLAAC.
Companies registered in Delaware are not required to identify who owns them. However, Billboard magazine last year reported that FLAAC is co-owned by event industry veterans Chris Racan and Carl Monzo.
It is FLAAC that is now seeking to return KAABOO to the Del Mar Fairgrounds next year. The proposed agreement between FLAAC and the board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association will be voted on by the board on Tuesday.
According to a notice of the meeting issued by the Agricultural Association, the proposed new partnership has been carefully vetted.
“It is presented after months of negotiations between FLAAC and the district,” the notice reads, “and contemplates a revenue in excess of $250,000 and multiple renewal option years, both of which exceed the delegated contract authority of Chief Executive Officer, Carlene Moore.
“(District) staff requests that the board delegate authority to (Moore) to enter into Agreement 24-4001 with Festival Licensing And Acquisition Corporation, LLC, as presented, and to authorize CEO Moore to execute an addendum each year that an option year is exercised to memorialize the specific dates of the festival, including set up and tear down.”
Moore welcomes the possibility of KAABOO’s return.
In an email statement to the Union-Tribune on Monday, she said: “In the five years prior to the pandemic, the multi-day festival attracted top names in music, art, and entertainment, created countless memories, and generated excitement in San Diego County and beyond. The festival’s organizers have told us they hope to recapture that magic here in September 2024.”
Fairgrounds spokesman Hallman declined to provide the Union-Tribune with any contact information for the Delaware-registered FLAAC, but said he did reach out to the company seeking comment on its plans for KAABOO in Del Mar.
As of Monday evening, FLAAC had not responded. Efforts to reach a FLAAC honcho, Mark Terry, were unsuccessful. Hallman stressed that FLAAC has the rights to stage the festival under the KAABOO name — and to enter into a contractual agreement with the fair — but does not own KAABOO.
It remains to be if the potential revival of the festival will benefit the 1,500 to 2,000 KAABOO fans who are still owed an estimated $500,000 in ticket refunds. Many of them had accepted the festival’s offer to roll over their tickets or VIP passes for the COVID-canceled 2020 edition of KAABOO San Diego at Petco Park to the 2021 edition at the ballpark.
But KAABOO San Diego did not happen in 2021 or 2022 and it now appears set to move back to Del Mar without ever having taken place at Petco Park.
Seeking refunds, some ticket-holders contacted the San Diego County District Attorney’s office seeking to bring a class-action lawsuit here against KAABOO and its ticketing agency, See Tickets.
But a June 3 letter from the office’s Economic Crimes Division — published on the Facebook page “Burned by KAABOO” — concluded no public offense was committed by See Tickets. The letter indicated it might be possible to seek “legal remedies” against former KAABOO owner “San Diego Fest Ownco, LLC, or its successor entities, however, these entities all appear to be out of business.”
Another case seeking KAABOO ticket refunds was brought in Los Angeles Superior Court. It resulted in an Aug. 27 court ruling of default against Virgin Fest, LLC, a company that also no longer appears to exist.
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