Donald Sterling surrenders control of LA Clippers to estranged wife
Move will allow Shelly to orchestrate sale of NBA franchise, say media reports
Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has surrendered control of the NBA club to his estranged wife Shelly, who is in talks with the league to sell the team, according to media reports on Friday.
Celebrity gossip website TMZ reported that Sterling, banned for life from the NBA this month by league commissioner Adam Silver for racist comments that have damaged the league, realised it would force him to sell eventually, citing unnamed sources close to the Clippers organisation.
The move would allow Shelly Sterling and her lawyers to control some terms of the sale, as she was not banned by the league.
TMZ reported that Shelly Sterling, who has a secondary ownership stake in the Clippers, is prepared to sue the NBA if the league orders an involuntary sale of the team.
“Shelly Sterling’s preference has always been to find a way to resolve this dispute amicably with the NBA in a mutually satisfactory manner,” TMZ quoted Shelly Sterling’s lawyer Pierce O’Donnell as saying.
ESPN reported that Shelly Sterling was in talks with the league to orchestrate a sale.
The league said that while it had no ban on Shelly Sterling, her ownership stake would be terminated if her husband was tossed out as the Clippers owner under terms of the franchise agreement Donald Sterling signed when he bought the club for US$12 million in 1981.
The Clippers are valued at nearly US$600 million by Forbes magazine and could fetch substantially more given the publicity and potential bidders could include Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey and unbeaten boxer Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Shelly Sterling has more leverage against Donald Sterling than the league, given the potential for obtaining property in a potential divorce.
While ESPN reported the NBA has not agreed to any Shelly Sterling-orchestrated deal just yet, such a move could produce a quick settlement to the scandal that would give the league faster closure than a potentially messy court trial and enable the Sterlings to profit from the asset of the club, a long-time loser coming off their best regular season in team history.