Los Angeles Clippers Sold to Steve Ballmer for $2 Billion

Donald Sterling 2 - H - 2014
Associated Press

Despite Donald Sterling’s legal efforts to block it, the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion was completed today, according to Ballmer’s attorney Adam Streisand.

Los Angeles Superior Court judge Michael Levanas issued a final statement of decision Tuesday morning enforcing his July 28 tentative ruling that Donald's wife Shelly Sterling had the right to negotiate the sale to Ballmer. "Within minutes, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered," Streisand told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement.

The judge's ruling included a special order stating that even if Donald's legal team filed an appeal, the appeal would not stay the ruling, as an appeal ordinarily would.

That order, which comes from section 1310(b) of California's Probate Code, is invoked when a ruling addresses an immediate risk of harm. Levanas ruled that was the case with Shelly's sale of the Clippers, finding that she stood to suffer from the loss of value of the team if the Ballmer sale was not completed.

Tuesday afternoon, the former Clippers owner's attorneys filed for an appellate court to stay the judge's ruling and waive the 1310(b) order. Ballmer's attorneys submitted an opposition about an hour later.

"I'm confident the appellate court will agree Judge Levanas made the correct decision," Streisand said in his statement Tuesday morning. "Even if, and it's a huge if, Donald Sterling could get a different result from the Court of Appeal, the sale is a done deal as allowed by the probate court's 1310(b) order."

The team announced in a statement that the NBA Board of Governors had previously approved the sale.

Ballmer said in the team's statement, "I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court."

The statement of decision issued Tuesday is the same as was issued last Thursday. It led Donald’s attorneys to petition for a suspension of the 1310(b) order and a stay on the ruling the following day, but the judge withdrew his ruling the same afternoon, leading the appellate court to deny the petition.

The ruling completed a case over whether Shelly had rightfully removed her husband from the family trust through which they owned the team, and whether the sale she negotiated with Ballmer could continue following Donald’s revocation of the trust. Levanas's ruling handed Shelly a complete victory.

The judge found when her husband abruptly refused to sell the team on May 29, after encouraging her to secure a buyer, she was in her rights to remove him from the trust using the medical reports of two neurologists who found him mentally incompetent. The judge found as well that the sale fit within the "winding up" of a trust's affairs permitted by the California Probate Code after the trust’s revocation.

The 1310(b) order was issued because Levanas found that if the Ballmer sale was not completed, the team would likely be seized by the NBA on Sept. 15—the deadline the league set for the Sterlings—and auctioned for a significantly lower price.

This probate case is not the only litigation Donald Sterling has in play regarding the team, however. He sued the NBA in May for at least $1 billion, alleging antitrust violations, breach of contract and unfair treatment. He then sued the league, its commissioner Adam Silver and Shelly in July.

The former Clippers owner was banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million in April after he was recorded privately making racist comments to a girlfriend.

Email: Austin.Siegemund-Broka@THR.com
Twitter: @Asiegemundbroka