LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shelly Sterling will go to probate court Wednesday to seek an emergency order for a hearing so a judge can confirm her authority to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, according to an individual familiar with the matter.
The individual was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Shelly Sterling brokered what would be a record-breaking $2 billion deal with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to sell the team after her husband and co-owner Donald Sterling made racist comments to a girlfriend that were recorded and publicized. The NBA moved swiftly to oust him as an owner.
But Donald Sterling has vowed not to sell and is suing the NBA for $1 billion.
Shelly Sterling contends she is the sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the team. Donald Sterling was stripped as co-trustee after two neurologists last month determined he was suffering from dementia and “mentally incapacitated” under the trust’s conditions, according to a person who is familiar with the trust and the medical evaluations but could not speak publicly.
The aim of Sterling’s court bid is to have a judge confirm provisions of the family trust to ensure the Ballmer sale moves forward without a hitch. Donald Sterling has the right to present his side at any hearing and appeal any decision.
His attorney Maxwell Blecher said a representative for Donald Sterling will likely be at any hearing but declined to comment further Tuesday. Sterling’s attorneys have called the idea that he is mentally incapacitated “absurd.”
On Monday, Donald Sterling pulled his support from the Ballmer deal and issued a one-page statement titled “The Team is not for Sale.”
He instructed his attorneys to prosecute the lawsuit against the NBA that alleges the league violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an “illegal” recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. It also said the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale.
“I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights,” Donald Sterling said. “While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled.”
NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan has called Donald Sterling’s lawsuit “entirely baseless.”
“Since it was his wife Shelly Sterling, and not the NBA, that has entered into an agreement to sell the Clippers, Mr. Sterling is complaining about a set of facts that doesn’t even exist.”
Donald Sterling had agreed to ink the deal and drop the suit last week assuming “all their differences had been resolved,” his attorneys said. But individuals close to the negotiations who weren’t authorized to speak publicly said he decided to not sign the papers after learning the NBA won’t revoke its lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine.
“There was never a discussion involving the NBA in which we would modify Mr. Sterling’s penalty in any way whatsoever. Any suggestion otherwise is complete fabrication,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
Donald Sterling’s comments to V. Stiviano included telling her to not bring black people to Clippers games, specifically mentioning Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. They resulted in outrage from the public and players and even prompted President Barack Obama to comment on what he called Sterling’s “incredibly offensive racist statements.”
Donald Sterling said in his statement that he was “extremely sorry for the hurtful statements” he made privately but said them out of anger and jealousy and didn’t intend for them to be public.