A legal fight over the ownership of the Clippers may be on the horizon as the fallout from owner Donald Sterling‘s racist audio recording continues.
On Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — who says he has spoken with the embattled mogul — wasn’t optimistic that Sterling would relinquish control of the team.
“Well, I think that he thinks that he’s going to be the owner for a long time, that he wants to stay the owner,” said Garcetti on CBS’ Face the Nation, adding: “To fight this for a long time only means the value of the team goes down. But more importantly, the debate rages on forever, and I think we need to put an end to it.”
A day earlier, the NBA announced a plan to install a new CEO of the Clippers organization to ensure “stability of the team during this difficult situation,” a statement from league spokesman Mike Bass read, adding that “the process of identifying that individual is underway.”
Sterling himself has yet to make a public statement or sit down for an interview. V. Stiviano — the woman described as the real estate tycoon’s girlfriend who was heard in the tapes obtained by TMZ and Deadspin — recorded a conversation with Barbara Walters on Friday evening where she said that Sterling was “tormented” by the firestorm.
Meanwhile, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson — appointed by the NBA Players Association during the Sterling ordeal — said Sunday that a legal fight is expected.
“I think that everyone is anticipating there will probably be a legal fight,” Johnson, a former NBA player, said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “However, I’d like him to rethink that decision. I think if Mr. Sterling was going to approach it the right way, he would apologize, he would embrace the sanctions, and spend the rest of his life proving that he was not a racist.”
The Clippers, worth an estimated $575 million according to a Forbes ranking in January, have drawn numerous potential suitors if a sale is forced by the NBA. Sterling was banned for life from attending NBA games and levied a $2.5 million fine by league commissioner Adam Silver.
Earlier this week, Oprah Winfrey confirmed that she was in talks with music mogul David Geffen and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison to try to purchase the team if it became available. (At the White House Correspondents’ dinner, President Obama even joked about an Oprah-led Clippers organization while making a dig at Sterling.)