LOS ANGELES — Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has pulled his support from a deal to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and will pursue his $1 billion federal lawsuit against the NBA, his attorney said.
The $2 billion sale was negotiated by his estranged wife Shelly Sterling after Donald Sterling’s racist remarks to a girlfriend were publicized and the National Basketball Association moved to oust him as owner.
The lawsuit 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.
“We have been instructed to prosecute the lawsuit,” said attorney Maxwell Blecher. He also said Donald Sterling would not be signing off on the deal to sell.
Sterling agreed to ink the deal and drop the suit last week assuming “all their differences had been resolved,” his attorneys said. But he decided to not sign the papers after learning the NBA won’t revoke its lifetime ban and fine.
Shelly Sterling utilized 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. The deal would have record-breaking if approved by the NBA’s owners.
An individual familiar with the negotiations who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly said that there were two options for Donald Sterling — to either sign or go to court.
But even if he wins in court, he’s ultimately going to be paying himself the damages the individual said because his wife Shelly Sterling has agreed to indemnify the NBA against all lawsuits, including by her husband.
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.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver ultimately decided to ban Donald Sterling for life, fine him millions, and began efforts to force Sterling to sell the team. Those efforts ended with Shelly Sterling’s deal with Ballmer.
If this deal ultimately goes through, its terms allow Shelly Sterling to remain close to the organization by allowing for up to 10 percent of the team — or $200 million — to be spun off into a charitable foundation that she would essentially run.
Shelly Sterling and Ballmer would be co-chairs of the foundation, which would target underprivileged families, battered women, minorities and inner city youths.
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 pre-designated price upon Shelly Sterling’s death.