May 29, 2014, 11:51 PM EDT
I imagine Donald Sterling is going to fight this one too, but…
Shelly Sterling has been granted the authority to sell the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer because her husband and co-owner Donald Sterling has been declared mentally incapacitated under the terms of the trust the couple owns the team through. That made her the sole trustee and decision maker.
That according to the tapped in Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
There have been reports and rumors that Donald Sterling has been battling dementia, which is the reason his former mistress claimed to make the recordings that sparked the controversy in the first place (he would forget what he had previously said). Donald also is reportedly battling prostate cancer.
Donald and Shelly Sterling each own half of the Clippers through a trust, although Donald is the recognized primary owner by the league under its constitution. However, a finding of mental incapacity would change the dynamic of control of the franchise.
NBC has confirmed that Shelly Sterling and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer have signed papers where Ballmer will buy the Clippers from the trust for $2 billion (a record NBA price, almost four times the previous high). Those papers have been sent on to the league office for review.
The league has yet to comment on the latest reports. As of now there is an NBA Board of Governors’ meeting (the other owners) scheduled for June 3. At that meeting the owners would conduct a hearing then vote on whether to strip Sterling of his ownership of the franchise in response to the backlash that followed his prejudiced comments on a recording released to TMZ, plus later in a CNN interview.
Reports have suggested the league would postpone that meeting and vote if a sale agreement (with terms, a price and a new owner they liked) was in place before next Tuesday. Shelly Sterling and Ballmer are hoping this fits that criteria. For the league, a sale by the Sterlings is a much cleaner process.
Donald Sterling had publicly flip-flopped between saying, “Why would I want to fight my partners?” as he did on CNN and promising to “fight to the bloody end” in court as he did through his lawyer in an official response to the charges against him from the league.
However if he has been declared mentally incapacitated that would take him out of the picture. Under the terms of the trust he did not have to be declared incapacitated by a court of law, the structures are different, Shelburne reports.
We do not know how recently this incapacity was declared, under what circumstances, and how it would hold up to a legal challenge in court. It seems fair to assume that Donald Sterling’s first move would be to fight this ruling.
However if this holds up it seems as if the saga of the Sterlings could have a path to ending. Which is what everyone wants (except possibly Donald Sterling).
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