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Shelly Sterling would still have ties to Clippers after sale, details of deal show

Jun 8, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

Shelly Sterling AP

Shelly Sterling will not own any of the Clippers after she sells the team to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, a sale that the NBA is working now to finalize.

But she would still have ties to the team, almost an “owner emeritus” status, reports the Associated Press.

The individuals, who are not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press that the $2 billion deal allows for up to 10 percent of the team — or $200 million — to be spun off into a charitable foundation that Shelly Sterling would essentially run. The deal was negotiated by Shelly Sterling after husband Donald Sterling’s racist remarks to a girlfriend were publicized and the NBA moved to oust him as team owner.

One of the individuals said Shelly Sterling and Ballmer would be co-chairs of the foundation. The individuals said the foundation would target underprivileged families, battered women, minorities and inner city youths. “To benefit those on the receiving end of Donald’s rather abhorrent remarks,” one individual said.

Shelly Sterling was looking from the start to stay tied to the team, ideally through remaining a minority owner, but the league was never going to go for that.

This is a workaround. She runs the charitable organization tied to the Clippers, and in that way stays connected to the team without actually owning a piece of it.

Shelly and Donald Sterling both had their identities largely wrapped up in owning the Clippers — the media dining room before Clippers games was often full of their friends and hangers on, kissing their rings so to speak, in what some media members jokingly called “club Sterling.” It’s not that the Sterlings loved the Clippers, they loved owning the Clippers.

This way she gets to keep that.

After a firestorm that followed a leaked tape of prejudicial remarks by Donald Sterling, the league made moves to strip the Sterlings of ownership (they each owned 50 percent of the team through a family trust, although the league recognized Donald as the official, primary owner). Shelly Sterling, working with the league, had Donald declared incapacitated following medical tests, giving her full control of the trust, then she sold the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion (the Sterlings will clear an estimated $1.3 billion after taxes, he bought the team in 1981 for $12.5 million). As part of the sale, the trust agreed to indemnify the NBA in any lawsuits brought by the sale — if Donald Sterling sues the league and wins the Sterling Trust has to pay his winnings. So he essentially is suing himself.

Donald Sterling said at one point he would sign off on the sale, but now is saying he may try to block it if the league does not lift its lifetime ban or rescind the $2.5 million fine levied against him.

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