Donald Sterling to take Los Angeles Clippers fight to court
NBA officials cancel this week's hearing to oust the disgraced owner
Donald Sterling will not get to fight for his Los Angeles Clippers in front of NBA owners this week. His only chance now is in court.
He could just pocket about US$1 billion, his share of the proceeds from the record-breaking sale of a team the league was prepared to take away from him. But do not count on it. His lawyers said he would fight the league and his family to keep the team he bought for US$12 million in 1981.
His estranged wife negotiated the deal to sell the Clippers for US$2 billion to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, saying she owns half the team and controls the family trust.
A person close to the family said Shelly Sterling took over the family's assets because Donald Sterling, 80, was stripped of his ability to act as a co-trustee after two neurologists determined he was suffering from dementia.
The individual, who is familiar with the trust and the medical evaluations but was not authorised to speak publicly, said Sterling was deemed "mentally incapacitated" according to the trust's conditions because he showed "an inability to conduct business affairs in a reasonable and normal manner".
"There is specific language and there are protocols about what to do, and steps to get a sole trustee position and that's what took place," the individual said.
On Friday, the NBA cancelled this week's hearing to oust Sterling, instead moving to vote on whether to approve the sale to Ballmer. Sterling's attorneys also filed a federal lawsuit against the league and Commissioner Adam Silver, asking for damages in excess of US$1 billion.
The lawsuit says Donald Sterling is still a co-trustee and does not want to sell the team.
"The assertion that Donald Sterling lacks mental capacity is absurd," attorney Bobby Samini said. He would not give more details on his condition.
The suit alleges that the NBA violated Sterling's constitutional rights by relying on information from an illegal recording that publicised racist remarks he made to a girlfriend.
It also says the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling US$2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by forcing a sale.
Shelly Sterling said she had agreed to sell the team to Ballmer "under her authority as the sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers".
Donald Sterling can try to reinstate his trusteeship by appealing to the California Probate Court. The NBA said the league, Shelly Sterling and The Sterling Family Trust had "resolved their dispute over the ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers".
"Under the agreement, the Clippers will be sold to Steve Ballmer, pending approval by the NBA board of governors, and the NBA will withdraw its pending charge to terminate the Sterlings' ownership of the team," it said.