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Donald Sterling won’t agree to Clippers sale, instructs attorney proceed with lawsuit against NBA

Jun 9, 2014, 10:02 PM EST

Donald T. Sterling, Rochelle Donald T. Sterling, Rochelle

You thought Donald Sterling would go quietly? Why? Just because he said he would?

Ha!

What we all hoped would be an inconvenient delay has turned into the worst-case scenario.

Dan Woike of The Orange County Register:

Donald also won’t sign off on the sale of the team to Steve Ballmer, according to the Associated Press.

Whether Donald needs to agree to that sale is a different question for himself, Shelly Sterling and their lawyers to solve. The Sterling Family Trust owns the Clippers and reportedly specifies when one spouse can take control – and Shelly had Donald ruled mentally incapacitated, giving her power to set up the sale of the team.

Donald Sterling’s first move would be to regain his share of the trust, and he’s going to try to do that reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Through her Sterling also released this statement:

“From the onset I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. I am extremely sorry for the hurtful statements I made privately. While this is not an excuse for the statements, like every other American, I never imagined that my (they) would be made public. I believe that Adam Silver acted in haste by illegally ordering the forced sale of the Clippers and banning me for life from the NBA. Action taken by Silver and the NBA constitutes a violation of my rights and fly in the face of freedoms that are afforded to all Americans. I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights. While my position may not be popular, I believe my rights to privacy & preservation of my rights to due process shouldn’t be trampled. I love the team and have dedicated 33 years of my life to the organization. I intend to fight to keep the Team.”

His real challenge is this — the Clippers are a franchise of the NBA and Sterling, on multiple occasions, agreed to the NBA’s rules, processes and adjudication systems. This is not the government trying to strip him of his business, this is his partners voting him out of the company. Very different things. Few legal experts think Sterling stands much of a chance here.

It is his challenging of Shelly Sterling and taking away his authority in the trust that is more interesting. That will be decided in a California probate court.

If he can do that, he would have the leverage to block the sale. If Donald Sterling fails in probate, then both the sale and the indemnity that Shelly Sterling offered the league — saying the Trust would pay any money Donald Sterling wins suing the league, meaning he is basically suing himself — remain in place.

If Sterling does regain say in the trust the NBA will re-schedule its vote to remove Donald as the Clippers’ owner. Yes, the league has a little egg on its face for allowing Sterling to continue owning the team for whatever the extra time becomes, but that’s not a huge deal. The other owners will almost surely vote out Donald.

If Donald is voted out, the ramifications would be wide. Shelly would also lose her ownership of the team, meaning she couldn’t sell the team to Ballmer (and couldn’t agree with him to preserve her place as owner emeritus). The NBA would take over the sale and then give the proceeds to the Sterlings.

A temporary injunction could delay or maybe even stop that process, but Sterling is unlikely to get an injunction granted.

Sterling is on his way out one way or another. It’ll just go through the courts rather than happen smoothly.

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