Early on Friday morning, the wife of Donald Sterling – one Rochelle “Shelly” Sterling – sent out a press release confirming she had come to an agreement with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to sell Ballmer the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. Their arrangement produced these quotes, from the release:
“I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner,” Shelly Sterling said. “We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”
Steve Ballmer said: “I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. I thank Shelly Sterling for her willingness to entrust the Clippers franchise to me, and I am grateful to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his colleagues for working collaboratively with me throughout this process.”
This, of course, flies in the face of the reported wishes of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, whose lawyers have vowed to fight to the “bloody end,” while making a wide-ranging (and, at times, ludicrous) defense in fighting the NBA in attempts to keep the Clippers under current ownership. Prior to that response, though, Donald Sterling had reportedly given his estranged wife signed permission to sell the team, in a rush job pitched to avoid a (still on schedule) June 3 vote by the 29 other NBA owners to determine whether or not the league should force Sterling to sell under the NBA’s private bylaws.
On Thursday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that doctors working under the Sterling Trust had declared Donald “mentally incapacitated,” leaving Shelly as the go-to force and only trustee in what was once a partnership between the couple.
On Friday, TMZ reported that Sterling is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, as diagnosed by doctors his Trust sought out:
Sources connected with the Sterling family tell TMZ ... the trust agreement that governs the family's ownership of the team provides if 2 qualified doctors determine either Donald or Shelly shows "an inability to conduct business affairs in a reasonable and normal manner" ... they will then be stripped of control over the team.
We're told earlier this month Donald agreed to an examination by 2 prominent neurologists. He underwent extensive tests, including a CT and PET scan. We're told both doctors diagnosed Donald with Alzheimer's and concluded he may have had the disease for as long as 5 years. The doctors both concluded he did not have the ability to conduct the business of the team.
Under the trust agreement ... the doctors' conclusions were enough to strip Donald of control.
Our sources say Donald can appeal the doctors' conclusions to the California Probate Court.
It’s up to you as to the extent of how much you want to feel for Donald Sterling, but do understand that any amount of diagnosis can still be argued away in a court of law as Sterling continues to fight to keep his team.
And make no mistake, Sterling’s lawyers have billable hours in their eyes, and they’re going to fight:
Donald Sterling's lawyer Max Blecher says in an e-mail, " Mr. Sterling is far from mentally incompetent."— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 30, 2014
Since May 22, Blecher said on Wed, "as time has evolved he’s come to a much more hardline position” and “was the old Don I knew"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 30, 2014
Blecher said he was aware of the evaluations of Mr. Sterling this month, but called the results "grossly exaggerated"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 30, 2014
How this all shakes out is still up in the air. Donald Sterling can battle the rumored diagnosis, and find all manner of doctors willing to give him a clean bill of health at whatever cost to their sense of professionalism and tact. As it is within the NBA’s constitution – which, again, Sterling agreed to repeatedly in writing until it was used against him – the bylaws within the Sterling Trust allow for them to dismiss Donald as a co-trustee if he is declared unfit to lead. And the NBA has decided to continue apace with its vote on Tuesday:
Though the vote hasn’t taken place, it’s clear that the NBA’s owners (the ones Sterling is finally costing money, which is why they hopped onto his taped, racist statements) want Donald Sterling gone.
The Clipper players, coaches, and most importantly fans? They want Sterling gone.
Shelly Sterling? She’s soon to be divorcing the man. She’s selling their team. She wants him gone.
The Sterling Trust? It wants Donald Sterling gone.
The only questions left? For the medical community – just how far gone is Donald Sterling? And for the lawyers – will these private diagnoses hold up to legal scrutiny?
Messier and messier, sadder and sadder along the way.
- - - - - - -