Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife to negotiate a forced sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, taking a pre-emptive step as the NBA process for forcing him to sell the team he has owned since 1981 is underway.
Shelly Sterling, a co-owner of the team in a family trust with her husband, is negotiating with the NBA to sell the team, which Sterling bought for $12.5 million, according to both TMZ and ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. The move to force out the league’s longest-tenured owner comes four weeks after racist comments by Donald Sterling surfaced and rocked the NBA. Since then, the NBA, in accordance with its constitution and by-laws, had sent Sterling a letter informing him of the reasons for the forced sale and he has until May 27 to reply. The Board of Governors is set to meet June 3 and Sterling’s ouster would be accomplished by a three-fourths vote of the other owners then.
TMZ reports that Sterling made the stunning decision to turn over the team, which may bring in upwards of $1 billion, because he realized he was fighting a losing battle. Shelly Sterling had said that she hoped to retain her interest in partnership with a new majority owner, but that’s not how these things usually work. Because she had more credibility and leverage with the NBA, the decision was made to turn over ownership to her. If she agrees to sell the team in its entirety, the Sterling mess would come to a conclusion relatively swiftly. If the NBA orders an involuntary sale, she would fight in a lawsuit, TMZ says.
It is important to note that the agreement is between the Sterlings and does not involve the NBA — yet. An unnamed source told the Los Angeles Times that the move by the Sterlings would proceed “if the league will allow her to retain some ownership.” The source, described as a confidante, said: “My sense is that it’s not a done deal. The issue is whether she gets to keep an interest” for the purposes of the sale.
Sterling was banned from contact with the league and team by Commissioner Adam Silver on April 29 and he urged the other owners to vote to force Sterling to sell (as well as fining him $2.5 million). In the days since then, a number of prospective buyers have preliminarily emerged. Oprah Winfrey, Larry Ellison and David Geffen have expressed interest in purchasing the team; so have Dr. Dre, Floyd Mayweather Jr., P Diddy and Rick Ross. Magic Johnson, whose named was dragged into the mess on the original recordings, also has been mentioned as a possible owner along with the Guggenheim group with which he own the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Shelly Sterling had professed to have support from fans and Clippers employees in her move to keep part of the team, saying fans were high-fiving her at games and saying “go, girl.” But Magic Johnson disputed that, saying the Clippers “would not play” for her.