A probate judge cleared the way for the L.A. Clippers to be sold to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a ruling against current owner Donald Sterling. In the ruling, Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas sided with Shelly Sterling, Donald’s estranged wife, who burst into tears when it was announced.
Shelly Sterling had her husband removed from the trust that owned the team when doctors discovered he had signs of Alzheimer’s disease and couldn’t manage his affairs. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Shelly then negotiated the sale of the team to Ballmer for $2 billion.
Sterling was banned by the NBA earlier this year for making offensive remarks about blacks. He claimed that his wife deceived him about his medical exams and later revoked the trust after she negotiated the sales price. His lawyers argued that the move killed the deal, adding that the case didn’t belong in probate court because the trust was dissolved.
Monday’s ruling against Donald Sterling likely won’t put an end to the sage, which started in April when Sterling was heard on a recording berating his young girlfriend for bringing black men to Clippers games. The NBA quickly banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million.
The Los Angeles Times notes that the court ruling allows the Clippers sale to go through immediately and includes an order that essentially keeps any appellate court from intervening in the matter.
During closing arguments, Max Blecher, an attorney for Donald Sterling, accused the owner’s wife of “an invidious scheme to strip Donald Sterling of his ownership rights of the Clippers.” Raising his voice, Blecher called the situation “unconscionable” and “devious.” He also accused NBA Commissioner Adam Silver of being a co-conspirator.
In return, Shelly Sterling’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, dismissed the assertion, commenting, “This was an argument for the media, not for the court.” O’Donnell stated earlier in the proceedings, “The doctors certified Donald as incapacitated. That’s the end of the matter.”
Sterling stated at one point in the case that he would “never, ever sell” the Clippers, which he bought in 1981 for about $12 million. He vowed to fight in court against the sale until he dies. Sterling, a lawyer who made his fortune as a landlord, also filed an antitrust lawsuit in federal court against the NBA. He also sued his wife, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and the league in state court.
Lawyers for Shelly Sterling and Steve Ballmer urged the judge to allow the sale because it was in the family trust’s best interest. The Clippers sale for $2 billion would be a league record sales price.
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