Jun 10, 2014, 11:18 AM EST
Does he need to for the sale to happen?
Shelly Sterling says no.
How did that happen?
Pierce O’Donnell, Mrs. Sterling’s lawyer, turned to a roomful of lawyers, investment bankers and financial advisers and said, “Time to go to Plan B,” according to advisers who were in the room.
It was a reference to a provision in the trust that controlled the Clippers that stipulated that if Mr. or Mrs. Sterling was found to have a cognitive impairment, the other had a fiduciary responsibility to become sole trustee.
That legal maneuver, so closely held that some of Mrs. Sterling’s advisers were unaware it existed, capped a hectic, weekslong effort to wrest control of the team from Mr. Sterling.
Mrs. Sterling has maintained that she was unaware of the provision until late in the process, according to her advisers. But on May 13, the day after she watched her husband give a rambling interview to Anderson Cooper of CNN, she called Mr. Sterling and urged him to undergo neurological testing, according to people with knowledge of the conversation. She told friends that she was motivated by concern for her husband.
Mr. Sterling agreed to an appointment for that Friday, May 16, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Mr. O’Donnell, her lawyer, was well aware of the legal ramifications of the hospital visit, according to participants in the negotiations. Medical documentation of Mr. Sterling’s condition could allow Mrs. Sterling to take control of the trust. This was “Plan B.”
The doctors’ conclusions were clear, according to participants who have reviewed the records: A neurologist affiliated with U.C.L.A. Medical Center and another from the San Fernando Valley found Mr. Sterling to be affected by cognitive impairment.
From the perspective of her legal team, that documentation was the weapon they needed to strip the team from Mr. Sterling.
Mr. O’Donnell faxed papers, along with the doctors’ reports, to Mr. Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell M. Blecher, that informed him that Mrs. Sterling was now the sole trustee, according to people briefed on the negotiations.
Mr. O’Donnell then called Richard Buchanan, the N.B.A.’s general counsel. Mr. Buchanan and other league officials had reviewed the doctors’ reports, according to people briefed on the negotiations.
If it really is that easy for Donald to lose control of the trust – Shelly didn’t even need to establish his mental condition in court first – his lawyers failed him when they wrote the trust agreement. They failed him again when they allowed him to make that May 16 appointment.
The only possible significant outcome was Donald losing his control of the trust. If he’d been found fully competent, nothing would have changed. If there were real concerns about his health, his lawyers should have ensured nobody but Donald could get access to his private medical records.
If you believe Shelly didn’t know what she was doing when she urged Donald to to the hospital… well, don’t be so gullible.
Either way, Shelly is getting half of the sale value. But by running the search herself, she did it on her terms. She negotiated a deal that gives her ties to the Clippers – tickets, parking and control of the team’s charitable foundation. Another perk for Shelly, as reported by Cacciola: three championship rings if the Clippers win an NBA title.
Of course, Donald’s lawyer says the medical tests were inconclusive. They can try to establish that in court.
But for now, even after NBA review, Shelly is in charge. All she had to do – whether or not she knew it (wink, wink) – was convince her husband she was concerned about his well-being. The doctors and lawyers took care of the rest.
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