Clippers Co-Owner Shelly Sterling to Remain Close to Team After Sale
Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling would remain close to the organization under terms of the pending sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to two individuals close to the negotiations.
The individuals, who are not authorized to speak publicly, told the Associated Press the $2 billion deal allows for up to 10 percent of the team -- or $200 million -- to be spun off into a charitable foundation that Shelly Sterling would essentially run. The deal was negotiated by Shelly Sterling after husband Donald Sterling's racist remarks to a girlfriend were publicized and the NBA moved to oust him as team owner.
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One of the individuals said Shelly Sterling and Ballmer would be co-chairs of the foundation. The individuals said the foundation would target underprivileged families, battered women, minorities and inner-city youth. "To benefit those on the receiving end of Donald's rather abhorrent remarks," one person said.
The idea to allow Shelly to continue in some role was floated early on by her attorney, Pierce O'Donnell -- neither he nor Shelly Sterling responded to a request for comment -- and it was enthusiastically agreed to by the NBA. "The NBA was all over it in terms of support," one of the individuals said. "It gave her a meaningful role and stake in the team and gave the NBA 100 percent sale of the team."
However, the NBA made clear she wouldn't be involved with the basketball franchise.
"It is not accurate that Mrs. Sterling will have a role with the Clippers or stake in the team," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
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Donald Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, did not comment.
But it's unclear if this deal will ever materialize, as Donald Sterling still had not signed off on the terms because the NBA would not agree to revoke its $2.5 million fine and lifetime ban, according to one of the individuals.
Sterling had agreed to sell the team Wednesday and drop his $1 billion federal lawsuit against the NBA assuming "all their differences had been resolved." But now he's considering continuing the suit after being told by intermediaries the NBA won't budge on the punishments doled out by Commissioner Adam Silver after Sterling's racist comments were publicized.
Donald Sterling's consent to his wife's potentially record-breaking $2 billion deal was the first sign of an end to weeks of uncertainty. The NBA's owners must approve the deal.
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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 a storm of outrage from the public and players and even prompted President Barack Obama to comment on what he called Sterling's "incredibly offensive racist statements."
Silver ultimately decided to ban Donald Sterling for life and began efforts to force Sterling to sell the team.
Donald Sterling's federal lawsuit alleges that 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.
For weeks, Donald Sterling said through his attorneys that he'd fight the NBA's attempt to oust him as a team owner. But last week Shelly Sterling used her authority as sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers, to take bids for the team and ultimately negotiate a deal with Ballmer.
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Under the deal, Shelly Sterling would also get the title of "owner emeritus" and be entitled to continuing perks, such as floor seats, additional seats at games and parking.
One of the individuals said the deal also includes conditions that allow Ballmer to buy back the 10 percent portion of the team for a predesignated price upon Shelly Sterling's death.
"All the proceeds go to charity; it's not going to go to her," an individual said. "She's walking away with a $2 billion check. That's enough for her."
Meanwhile, Silver said Sunday that he thinks Donald Sterling's fight with the league is almost over.
"While I understand his frustration, I think it's over," the NBA commissioner said before Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
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Silver said Sterling still hasn't signed off on the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, or agreed to drop his lawsuit against Silver or the NBA. But Silver believes he ultimately will, because Shelly Sterling's agreement with the league covers the NBA's legal responsibilities in case of a suit.
"So, in essence, Donald is suing himself, and he knows that," Silver said.
Silver also said that there is "absolutely no possibility" of rescinding the lifetime ban or $2.5 million fine he handed down to Sterling following his racist remarks.
Silver said he spoke with Sterling shortly after delivering his punishments and found him to be "distraught" but "not remorseful at that time."
Sterling's attorneys had eventually indicated to the league that he would drop his fight and work with his estranged wife to finish off the record $2 billion sale. Sterling may be changing his mind now, but Silver doesn't seem concerned.
"I think it's just a matter of time now, and then we will move on to better topics and back to the finals," Silver said.
He later added, "I take very seriously the fact that he has a pending lawsuit against the league. So I want to make sure that's resolved before we say this is behind us, but I have absolute confidence it will be."