LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The National
Basketball Association said on Friday that it has reached an agreement
with the estranged wife of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to
sell the team, opening a new chapter for the franchise after 33 years
Sterling, 80, was banned for life by the NBA for racist remarks in
a private conversation that were recorded secretly and leaked to the
media while the Clippers were playing in the NBA playoffs. The news
brought shame on the league, sponsors cut ties with the team and
players considered a boycott.
Also on Friday, Sterling sued the NBA and league Commissioner Adam
Silver in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for at least $1
As a result of the settlement, the league canceled its Tuesday
hearing to terminate Sterling's ownership, avoiding a vote by NBA
owners to consider removing one of their own.
In his lawsuit, Sterling says he was unaware he was being recorded
and was caught in a jealous quarrel with a "lover." He alleges
Silver and the NBA forced him to sell the Clippers using a recording
illegal under California law as evidence.
Sterling also says in the suit the NBA did not respond to his query
on Friday if the hearing had been canceled following the sale of the
NBA executive vice president and general counsel Rick Buchanan
called Sterling's lawsuit baseless and said Sterling did not have
any recourse since his wife had sold the team. "There was no 'forced
sale' of his team by the NBA - which means his antitrust and
conversion claims are completely invalid," Buchanan said in a
Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, said he had no comment on the
NBA's move to tentatively approve the $2 billion sale of the
Clippers by Shelly Sterling to former Microsoft Corp chief executive
officer Steve Ballmer.
"I have big dreams for the team. I’d love to win a championship. I’d
love the Clippers to be the most dynamic, vibrant team and name in
professional sports, but I’ve got a lot to learn," Ballmer said in
an interview published by The Los Angeles Times on Friday.
NBA owners still must approve the sale, but the vote is believed to
be a formality because Ballmer was vetted by the NBA last year as a
suitor for the Sacramento Kings.
As part of the deal between Shelly Sterling, the Sterling Family
Trust, which owns the Clippers, and the NBA, she agreed not to sue
Donald Sterling has listed the Sterling Family Trust as a plaintiff
in his suit against the NBA which alleges breach of contract and
antitrust violations among other damages.
A source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters that Shelly
Sterling is now sole trustee of the family trust that controls the
Clippers after physicians this month deemed that her husband has
Alzheimer's disease. Blecher did not respond to phone calls or
emails seeking comment on Donald Sterling's health. But in a
statement to CNN, he said Sterling was had a "modest mental
In addition to damages, Sterling has asked the court to re-install
his top lieutenant Andy Roesler as Clippers CEO and eliminate his
$2.5 million fine. Roesler has been placed on indefinite leave and
replaced by the NBA with former Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons
on an interim basis.
(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner, Editing by Mary Milliken,
Bernadette Baum, Jonathan Oatis, David Gregorio and Matt Driskill)