Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Donald Sterling Kept Away From LA Clippers

(CN) - Donald Sterling cannot fight the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, a deal approved by his estranged wife for a record $2 billion,

Sterling's position as Clippers owner since 1981 made him the longest-tenured owner in the National Basketball Association, until the leak of his racist comments led the NBA to ban him in 2014.

The controversy erupted when Sterling's biracial girlfriend, V. Stiviano, sent TMZ a secret recording she made of a conversation she had with Sterling in which the elderly Clippers owner told her not to bring black people to the games or post pictures of herself with black people on social media.

When the NBA announced plans to remove Sterling as team owner and sell the team at auction, Forbes valued the Clippers at $575 million.

Sterling initially authorized the sale, but then changed his mind, and vigorously fought to keep the team.

When billionaire Steve Ballmer sought to buy the Clippers for $2 billion, Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas authorized the owner's estranged wife, Rochelle Sterling, to go ahead with the sale.

Rochelle Sterling had secured confirmation as trustee of The Sterling Family Trust based on the testimony of two doctors that Sterling is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's and lacked the capacity to make decisions on the trust's behalf.

A three-judge panel with the Second Appellate District refused to let Donald Sterling block the sale last year and affirmed Levanas' decision Monday.

"The circumstances here were extraordinary," Justice Madeleine Flier wrote for the panel. "The trust owned a $2 billion-asset facing an imminent 'death spiral" absent its sale.' Section 1310(b) may be used to prevent a substantial monetary loss, and here the evidence showed the potential loss to be at least $400 million."

Flier and her colleagues found no evidence that Sterling was coerced at his doctors' examinations, and said a doctor has no professional obligation to advise a patient about the possible legal consequences of an examination.

"The credited evidence overwhelmingly shows that Rochelle acted in the beneficiaries' interest including Donald's interest when she sold the Clippers for $2 billion, an amount higher than Rochelle and her advisors thought possible," Flier said. "The amount caused Donald to congratulate Rochelle. Additionally, the probate court found that the sale to Ballmer was necessary to preserve the unusually high sale price and afforded the trust a $400 million benefit over the next best price and substantially more than the team likely would have received at an NBA auction."

Sterling filed to divorce his wife this year, and he sued Stiviano and TMZ this summer as well.

Stiviano - born Maria Vanessa Perez and also known as Monica Gallegos, Vanessa Perez and Maria Valdez, meanwhile faces an order to repay Rochelle Sterling $2.6 million for the gifts Donald Sterling lavished on her, paid for with community-property money.

Stiviano testified that she worked for the Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation, that her relationship with the former Clippers owner was purely platonic, and that she was "bearding" for Sterling to cover up for the fact that he is supposedly gay.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.