Amid $2 billion Clippers deal, Donald Sterling sues NBA

first_imgThe fast-moving developments marked another tumultuous turn in the Donald Sterling saga, and came a day after Donald Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, inked a deal to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for an NBA record $2 billion.The lawsuit also highlighted the competing interests of Donald and Shelly Sterling, who co-own the Clippers through the family trust and have been married for more than three decades: Shelly Sterling is pushing for a speedy resolution, while her husband is digging in his heels.Donald Sterling’s lawsuit comes about a month after audio recordings surfaced of the Clippers owner making disparaging remarks about African-Americans. His comments drew widespread condemnation and prompted the NBA to initiate proceedings against the owner to force a sale, and impose a fine.A representative for Shelly Sterling declined comment on her husband’s lawsuit Friday. NBA executive vice president and general counsel Rich Buchanan called the lawsuit “entirely baseless” and said there was no forced sale. In a move that could jeopardize the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, owner Donald Sterling sued the NBA on Friday, asking a judge to overturn his ban for life from the league and halt the forced sale of the basketball team.Filed in federal court on behalf of Donald Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust, the lawsuit alleges breach of contract and seeks at least $1 billion in damages.The 80-year-old real estate magnate contends in court documents a forced sale of the Clippers team “threatens not only to produce a lower price than a non-forced sale, but more importantly, it injures competition…” The lawsuit also alleges that Donald Sterling’s ban for life from the NBA is unreasonable, and the $2.5 million fine imposed by the league too severe.Complicating Sterling’s claims, the NBA on Friday dropped a key issue alleged in the lawsuit by canceling a planned vote Tuesday to force the sale of the team. “Since it was his wife and not the NBA, that has entered into an agreement to sell the Clippers, Mr. Sterling is complaining about a set of facts that doesn’t even exist,” Buchanan said.The NBA on Friday announced it was tentatively backing Ballmer’s bid to purchase the franchise.Reached Friday, Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, was asked about the NBA’s backing of the $2 billion sale. He was also asked if Donald Sterling intended to sue Shelly Sterling. “Good questions — we’re ruminating,” Blecher said.Shelly Sterling’s deal with Ballmer also contains a provision allowing her to retain some involvement with the team, according to a source close to the negotiation. But how deeply involved wasn’t immediately clear.The agreement between Shelly Sterling and Ballmer contains a “creative way with Mr. Ballmer to meet the desires of the league to sell 100 percent of the team, and the desire of Ms. Sterling to remain a participant and to remain involved in the franchise,” the source said.But an NBA source downplayed that provision of the deal, saying Shelly Sterling would not be involved with the team.Some media reports Friday also said Donald Sterling had been declared mentally incapacitated by two neurologists and Shelly Sterling has control over the family trust.Blecher told CNN that calling his client incapacitated is a “vast overstatement,” and said the 80-year-old’s diagnosis was of a “modest mental impairment” and he is “slowing down.”Known for his combative and litigious nature, Donald Sterling also sued the league after moving the team from San Diego to Los Angeles without NBA approval in 1984. He was fined $25 million, but abandoned the lawsuit after the fine was dropped to $6 million.His newest lawsuit challenges the $2.5 million fine imposed and the ban, and claims the “punishment is far and away the most severe ever imposed by an NBA Commissioner for any conduct.”Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined just $100,000 for making a homosexual slur, the lawsuit contends, while Shaquille O’Neal didn’t face any punishment from the league for “mocking a disabled individual on Instagram and for making multiple racist comments about Asian players on television.”If the Sterling court case drags on, the risk is that Ballmer could walk away, believes sports marketing expert Marc Ganis. Already, Ballmer lost his bid last year to buy the Sacramento Kings and may not want to go through another drawn-out sale process, Ganis said.“They found the only person on the planet who at this point in time will pay $2 billion,” Ganis said.The NBA does not currently have a date set to approve Ballmer’s ownership, but a league source estimates it will take place within “weeks.”In a statement released late Thursday, Ballmer said he was “honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.”“L.A. is one of the world’s great cities — a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness,” Ballmer said.Ballmer’s bid for the team drew praise from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who invited the former Microsoft executive to City Hall on Friday. Garcetti said in a statement that he looks forward to “working with (Ballmer) and the Clippers to make a positive impact on our city.”Cari Grieb, an adjunct professor of law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago said she believes that Donald Sterling has a very weak case.“To prevail, he would have to show how he was forced to sell below fair market value. … I think anyone would tell you this team is being paid more than any other NBA franchise,” Grieb said. center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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