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Sources: Donald Sterling allows his wife to negotiate sale of Clippers

May 23, 2014, 10:58 AM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, his wife Shelly, and actor George Segal attend the NBA basketball game between the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Reuters

At his press conference this week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed Donald and Shelly Sterling selling the Clippers before the NBA removed the family’s ownership:

Mrs.Sterling as I understand it through a trust owns 50 percent of the team, as well.  It is their team to sell, and so he knows what the league’s point of view is, and so I’m sure if he wanted to sell the team on some reasonable timetable, I’d prefer he sell it than we go through this process.  So if that’s what you mean by man‑to‑man, I’m open to that.

Silver might get his preference.

Sources tell NBC’s Matt Zimmerman that Donald Sterling has given control of the Clippers to Shelley Sterling.

That confirms something first reported by TMZ:

Donald Sterling is no longer the controlling owner of the Los Angeles Clippers … TMZ Sports has learned he just surrendered control to his estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, and she is now secretly negotiating with the NBA to sell the team … ON HER TERMS.

Sources connected with the Sterlings tell us … Donald made the decision because he saw the handwriting on the wall — as long as he remained in control, the NBA would order an involuntary sale of the team.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN actually explains it better:

The Sterlings may be trying to negotiate the sale of the Clippers but it remains to be seen if the NBA will allow them to do so.

First off, the league released a statement saying that it will continue on its timetable for a June 3 hearing and vote. The league is not about to give up that leverage.

Next, there is no way Shelly has become the Clippers’ controlling owner, as the first reports indicated. That’s a change that must meet league approval, and not only would she have to answer a lot of questions in the vetting process, it would be a very public process we would know about (like any other ownership change). That has not happened.

This is a deal between Shelly and Donald, it is not something with the league.

It’s possible Shelly – an alternate governor for the Clippers – has assumed Donald’s vote. The NBA constitution stipulates:

Each Member shall be represented on the Board of Governors by a Governor who may be replaced at will by such Member (and who shall be an individual who is an Owner, or a director, officer, or authorized employee of such Member), and who shall be vested with the full power and authority to represent such Member and to bind such Member by his or her vote.

This is an informal arrangement, at least as far as the NBA is concerned. Silver wants the team sold, and if Donald is willing to accommodate rather than sue, all the better. In effect, I’m not sure anything will proceed differently than had he just agreed to sell the team himself.

The one thing that could throw a wrench in all this is that Shelly Sterling wants to keep a piece of the team, reports Jeff Zillgitt at the USA Today.

Shelly Sterling has agreed to sell the team as long as she retains a minority interest in the Clippers, according to the second person, who also requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

Several players have told PBT this would be unacceptable to them. The league office has had the same reaction, which is another reason they are continuing to move forward with the efforts to terminate the Sterlings’ ownership.

The NBA contends, if the other owners vote to remove Donald’s ownership, Shelly would also lose hers. That vote is scheduled for June 3.

The clock for Shelly to complete a sale is ticking.

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