After Attempt To Return To Del Mar, KAABOO Festival Sues The San Diego Padres

May 13, 2022

The parent companies of the KAABOO festival, which took place at Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack from 2015 to 2019, have sued the San Diego Padres. 

We reported last year that San Diego's KAABOO music and cultural festival was mired in debt and litigation, which resulted in industry-wide speculation that the event was done for good. As reported thoroughly by Billboard Magazine, the 2019 KAABOO festival came a hair away from cancellation in Del Mar before a last-minute purchase from former KAABOO partner and executive Jason Felts through his new company, Richard Branson-backed Virgin Fest LLC, which allegedly occurred just one day before the 5th annual event was scheduled to take place. Following the purchase, KAABOO founders Bryan Gordon and Seth Wolkov sued Virgin Fest LLC in the Superior Court for New Castly County in the state of Delaware, accusing Felts of "pursuing a Trojan Horse strategy" to "infiltrate KAABOO" "and take possession of its most valuable assets," according to court filings

On the final day of the 2019 event, KAABOO officials surprised San Diego by reporting that they had reached a multi-year agreement with the San Diego Padres to host the 3-day annual festival at its new home at Petco Park in downtown San Diego from September 18-20, 2020. This resulted in the Del Mar Fairgrounds announcing it was considering legal action against KAABOO for violating terms of their contract. Upon announcing the new venue for 2020, KAABOO pre-sold early-bird tickets for the ultimately-cancelled 2020 event. It has been reported that many ticket purchasers have still not received a refund or explanation.  

According to the complaint filed this past January in San Diego Superior Court by KAABOO's parent companies against Padres L.P., negotiations between the Padres and KAABOO to host the event at Petco Park were never truly finalized, as the companies only entered into a written, term sheet agreement in September 2019. KAABOO's position is that such discussions were only in preliminary stages in late 2019 and then completely ceased at the outset of the global pandemic, leaving them to pursue another site to host the festival. However, once restrictions were lifted and the world began to open again in late 2021, KAABOO then sought to resurrect their former contract with the Del Mar Fairgrounds to bring the event back to that original venue in 2022. At that point, KAABOO ownership was notified by Padres that they hold the exclusive rights to host a KAABOO festival at Petco Park. 

The complaint states that Padres demanded over $2 million from KAABOO for breach of contract. KAABOO argues no contract was ever entered and so any early discussions are unenforceable, including an exclusivity term that would prevent KAABOO from hosting the event anywhere within 100 miles of Petco Park. Through its lawsuit, KAABOO is seeking a declaration from the court that there is no enforceable contract between the Padres and KAABOO ownership, which would pave the way for KAABOO to return to Del Mar or another local venue. Through communications included as exhibits, it is shown the Padres assert the initial terms laid out in the September 2019 term sheet constitute a binding and enforceable contract. 

Also mentioned in the complaint is the fact that KAABOO's lender threatened to foreclose on then parent-company Virgin Fest in October 2020, resulting in Virgin Fest entering into a Settlement and Assignment In Lieu of Foreclosure Agreement, pursuant to which the rights to KAABOO and the license to use the KAABOO name and brand were assigned to the lender. Virgin Fest's unnamed lender then sold the rights to KAABOO to another entity, who thereafter transferred the license to a chain of other companies. Virgin Fest is now seemingly part of the lawsuit against Padres so that current owners can revive the KAABOO festival without the restrictions of the 2019 agreement with the Padres. 

We reached out to KAABOO's original founder Bryan Gordon, Virgin Fest founder Jason Felts, and Padres CEO Erik Greupner for comment to include in this article but did not receive any substantive response by the time of publishing.