Donald Sterling’s lawyers had vacation plans and a wedding anniversary, so there won’t be a ruling in the probate hearing to determine whether the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer was legitimate until July 28 at the earliest.
Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas called a recess Thursday in California probate court. The trial will resume July 21 and closing arguments are expected July 28.
Ballmer submitted a record $2 billion bid to buy the Clippers to Shelly Sterling after her husband approved a plan that allowed her to negotiate an expedited sale of the team. Though Ballmer’s bid is set to expire July 15, it contains a provision that allows for a 30-day extension as long as progress is being made in the deal. Ballmer’s lawyer Adam Streisand told ESPN he was confident in the proceedings. If Levanas rules that Shelly did not have authority to sell the team acting as a trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, or if the Ballmer deal dissolves for some other reason before Sept. 15, the NBA could auction the team.
Shelly testified Thursday that Donald was “happy” with the sale — before he changed his mind. He supported her efforts to facilitate the Clippers fire sale to avoid being pushed out of the league with little say. But Donald refused to sign the papers approving it once Ballmer submitted the winning bid. Shelly testified that he screamed and cursed at her when she presented him with the contract. “He was uncontrollable,” she said. After the sale, Donald retroactively dissolved the trust, which set the couple up for big potential financial problems, according to ESPN.
The Sterlings borrowed $500 million in bank loans against the trust, but now that it no longer exists, creditors are circling. Without approval of the sale, the Sterlings could be forced to sell off their property holdings to pay back the loans.
Earlier in the week, two doctors testified that Sterling was showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. “I never thought he would sue me for doing something he asked me to do,” Shelly told the court. “I never thought this would happen.”
On Wednesday, an embittered Sterling took the stand and told the courtroom that he would be suing the NBA until the day he dies. He called the league “the worst corporation in America,” and said “everyone will find out how terrible and dishonest they are,” according to USA Today. He had words about league commissioner Adam Silver, who fined him $2.5 million and banned him from the league after Sterling admitted to Silver that he’d made racist statements that were recorded and released to TMZ.
“This guy’s been in office all of 60 days, and he’s going to show the world he’s not going to permit racism,” Sterling said. “But I’m not a racist. I love all people.”
Sterling was combative during the second day of the trial, and the third showed little improvement. After she testified Wednesday, Donald told Shelly “stay away from me, you pig” as she walked to a chair near her husband. Levanas told Sterling: “Please don’t make any comments about your wife. That’s somewhat disturbing.”
Though they have been widely described as estranged, Shelly told the court she was Donald’s only caregiver and she thought her husband’s mental competence needed to be evaluated after seeing his interview with Anderson Cooper. “He’s been getting more forgetful,” she said. “He’s slurring his words. He’s agitated a lot. He gets mad for no particular reason. He’s just not the same person he used to be.”
When asked if they were separated, she answered, “Sort of.”
After her testimony Thursday, one of Shelly’s attorneys, Pierce O’Donnell, said he was sure the deal would go through.
“Shelly is trying to get the sale done,” O’Donnell said. “She’s doing the right thing. The offer for $2 billion for this team may never come again. The fact of the matter is that she was trying to see if she could work accommodations. But there are no accommodations with Donald Sterling behaving the way he is.”