Possible Clippers Sale Snagged on Technicality, but Quickly Unsnagged
The possible sale of the L.A. Clippers appeared to have hit a contractual snag, but it quickly got unsnagged.
Donald Sterling’s lawyer is going on vacation, so the probate court deciding whether or not he gets to keep the team or his wife gets to sell it, postponed the next hearing until July 21.
That goes against a stipulation in former Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer’s agreement with Shelly Sterling to buy the Clippers for $2 billion, according to a court filing.
The NBA was supposed to meet on July 15 to approve the sale, but only if the court had made a decision by then.
No NBA decision, no sale? Not so, contends Ballmer’s lawyer Adam Streisand.
As long as the trial is moving forward, the sale deadline can be extended by 30 days.
An angry Donald Sterling lashed out at the NBA in a court hearing Wednesday, calling the league “a terrible institution” that told lies and wrongly made him a “poster boy” for racism.
The 80-year-old billionaire and co-owner of the Clippers had taken the stand in the nonjury trial in probate court. He is battling his estranged wife Shelly Sterling over how she had him declared mentally unfit and then took over the couple’s trust that owns the basketball team, which she’s trying to sell for a record $2 billion.
He was animated and, at times, visibly upset — this time under questioning from his own lawyer.
Sterling challenged the idea that he couldn’t run the Clippers, insisting that “to say someone else could take over is ludicrous.” He added that he still runs five corporations.
“I know everything,” Sterling said.
Started with racist comments
Donald Sterling came under fire earlier this year for making racist comments to his companion V. Stiviano that appeared online; others felt he dug an even deeper hole during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in which he disparaged basketball legend Magic Johnson and others.
On Wednesday, he blasted the NBA as “the worst corporation in America,” saying he would never willingly sell the team and that he would fight the league in court as long as it takes.
“I will never, ever, ever sell this team,” Sterling said. “And until I did, I will be suing the NBA.”
On Tuesday, Sterling tearfully said his wife, though beautiful and intelligent, just can’t run their business empire.
On the stand Wednesday, he said Shelly Sterling was pressured by the NBA to force a sale of the team.
“She was scared out of her mind,” Donald Sterling said.
Shelly Sterling: “I started crying”
Later Wednesday, Shelly Sterling took the stand. She said she was moved to act — including to get Donald Sterling evaluated by doctors, to assess his mental capacity and thus his ability to run the family trust that owns the Clippers — after seeing his interview with Cooper.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said, recalling watching that interview. “I started crying. I felt so bad. I couldn’t believe it was him. I didn’t know what was wrong.”
Shelly Sterling said her husband didn’t seem to have a problem when he was later examined by doctors.
But as she left the stand and walked toward him, Donald Sterling made his feelings loud and clear by yelling: “Get away from me, you pig.” He then appeared to mutter under his breath, “Shelly, how could you lie?”
Shelly Sterling’s lawyer then asked Judge Michael Levanas to have Donald Sterling removed from court. The judge didn’t comply, instead asking the Clippers co-owner not to “make any statements to your wife.”
Doctors say Sterling has Alzheimer’s or another brain disease
Donald and Shelly Sterling were ordered by the NBA to sell the basketball franchise after Donald Sterling was heard making racial slurs against African-Americans in an audio recording.
She took over the trust in which the couple equally own the Clippers after she sent him to two physicians who certified he was mentally incapacitated.
Donald Sterling, an attorney and real estate investor, has early Alzheimer’s or another brain disease, the doctors said.
But Donald Sterling and his attorneys dispute he’s incapacitated.
Levanas is hearing evidence on whether Shelly Sterling acted properly when she removed her husband from the couple’s trust.
The judge said he is not deciding on Donald Sterling’s mental capacity. Rather, the judge is going to rule only on issues of the trust and whether its procedures were followed correctly.
Donald Sterling has said he believes the team may be worth twice the $2 billion price his wife negotiated with Ballmer, said Maxwell Blecher, another attorney for Donald Sterling.
CNN’s Linda Hal and Sara Sidner reported from Los Angeles, CNN’s Greg Botelho wrote this story from Atlanta. CNN’s Michael Martinez contributed to this report.