Shelly Sterling’s attorney will be in probate court on 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.
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.
Donald Sterling said in a statement released by his attorney on Tuesday that he’s fighting for the fundamental rights of Americans against the NBA which he calls “a band of hypocrites and bullies” and “despicable monsters.”
His statement is titled in caps and underlined: “WHY I AM FIGHTING THE NBA? THE NBA WANTS TO TAKE AWAY OUR PRIVACY RIGHTS AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH.”
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 be at the hearing, and that the main issue to be decided is whether Donald Sterling is mentally competent.
“There isn’t the slightest evidence he’s incapable of managing his affairs,” Blecher said. He said the next step is to have other doctors evaluate Sterling.
“I have no doubt at the end of the day the court is not going to say he’s incompetent. That’s a very high burden in the probate court — otherwise people would get their sisters and wife and brother-in-laws and everybody declared incompetent.”
Though both Sterlings will have their own attorneys at the hearing Wednesday and they live apart, the couple remains “chummy,” Blecher said.
“It’s what I describe to people as a strange estrangement, they don’t seem at all hostile to each other, and he’s very solicitous of her,” Blecher said. “They’ve been married 58 years. Each threatens the other one they’re going to get a divorce but they never did and never have.”
On Monday, Donald Sterling pulled his support from the Ballmer deal. 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.
Donald Sterling 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.
“He never voluntarily said ‘Oh let’s sell the team for $2 billion,’ he didn’t care about the money and he’s walking away from it now. It’s not about the money,” Blecher said. “To him it’s about the ownership of the team, the maintenance of his integrity, reputation and dignity. That’s what he wanted from the league. He wanted to have them help him restore it and they wouldn’t do it.”
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 President Barack Obama.