Judge gives go-ahead for $2 billion sale of NBA's Clippers

Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:50pm EDT
 
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The estranged wife of Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling can proceed with the record $2 billion sale of the NBA team despite her husband's objections, a judge ruled on Monday, in a likely coda to a case of lingering racism in American sports.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas said the deal struck by Shelly Sterling with former Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote) Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer was permissible and could be consummated even if Sterling, who has been banned for life from the National Basketball Association for racist remarks, chose to appeal.

"She had every good reason to believe that Donald agreed to the sale of the team," said Levanas, who added that he found Donald Sterling's combative testimony at the emotionally charged nine-day trial "often evasive and inconsistent."

The ruling was a major victory for an embarrassed NBA and Shelly Sterling, who had asked the probate judge to confirm her as the trustee of the family trust that owns the Clippers. She acted in May to have her 80-year-old real estate billionaire husband removed when neurologists deemed him to have early Alzheimer's disease and unable to handle business affairs.

Shelly Sterling, 79, cried after the ruling and told reporters outside the courtroom: "Either way we'd win. I am just doing what I had to do."

Donald Sterling's attorneys said they would file an appeal of the decision.

"He doesn't see this as the final battleground," said Sterling's attorney, Bobby Samini. "This is one stage of a long war."

In an unprecedented move, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling and fined him $2.5 million three months ago after his taped private comments imploring a girlfriend not to associate with black people, including NBA Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson, were published.   Continued...

 
Shelly Sterling, 79, (C) speaks at a news conference with her lawyer Pierce O'Donnell in Los Angeles, California July 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson