Shelly Sterling, co-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is pushing for an extremely rapid sale of the team. According to a report in the LA Times, we can expect to hear of a prospective new owner as early as this Friday. That is, if her husband doesn't get in the way first.
The NBA is still planning a June 3 hearing and owner's vote that could strip both Sterlings of their ownership, so selling the team before that time is in their best interest. An NBA spokesperson even says that would be "a preferred outcome." However, her estranged husband Donald Sterling (according to his lawyer) is "not interested in selling. He's going to fight to the bloody end." This is despite reports last week that he had transferred control of the whole team to his wife so that she could negotiate a sale.
California is a quirky state when it comes to marital property. Everything is owned equally in a marriage — including basketball teams. While the mister may have bought the team, the misses now owns half. The Clippers are owned by the Sterling family trust, of which each Sterling has equal ownership. This puts the couple in quite an awkward position: Shelly is trying to sell her half by Friday, while Donald is still planning on taking the NBA to court.
Donald Sterling has already said he has received offers "in excess of $2.5 billion" — quite the payday for a team he purchased for $12.5 million. This would be the highest sale price of any team in NBA history. However, Mr. Sterling doesn't seem to have any interest in cashing out now. (Considering how much he is worth already and his age, the added $1.25 billion won't make any difference to his lifestyle.) Donald Sterling's lawyer told ESPN Tuesday evening that, "I don’t know what agreement she has with him, but he disavows anything she’s doing to sell the team." Yet, one potential buyer has said Mrs. Sterling stated bids for the Clippers are due by
Friday at 2 PM. (ESPN's Ramona Shelburne says it's actually Wednesday.)
It seems extremely peculiar that Donald Sterling's lawyer does not know about his client reportedly agreeing to sign the team over to his wife, in order facilitate a voluntary sale. It looks like now he is reverting back to his original plan of fighting to the death. This isn't actually all that surprising, considering the amount of money Donald Sterling has and that the recordings that doomed him were, after all, made illegally (California is a two-party consent state.)
If this all sounds like a huge mess, it's because it is. The Sterlings themselves aren't in agreement, the NBA won't issue any new comments, and the lawyers can't seem to keep track of their clients. A sale by Friday could put much of this behind the Sterlings — but who knows if a deal can even be made and they might have changed their minds again by then anyway.
Donald Sterling's lawyer says, "He was in a state of shock at first. Now he’s recovering and he’s much more feisty"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 28, 2014
As for the NBA, they're holding true to what they've been saying for the last week or so: “It would be a preferred outcome if the Sterlings were to voluntarily transfer 100% of the ownership in the team to new owners, rather than to have their ownership in the team terminated.”
Sure, it would be preferred. But we aren't holding our breath.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.