After Shelly Sterling accepted former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's NBA-record-setting $2 billion bid to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, and after the NBA announced it had resolved its dispute with Shelly Sterling and that its Board of Governors would soon vote to approve Ballmer's purchase of the franchise, it was natural to wonder just what would become of Donald Sterling.
Would the 80-year-old real-estate developer, whose lifetime ban following the publication of audio recordings in which he made racist remarks put the wheels of the forced sale in motion, just accept being "boxed in" and enjoy the exponential return on his investment of $12.5 million in 1981? Or would a man with a well-established love of litigation continue a fight that seemingly everybody else in the world would prefer to be over? A week later, the answer remains unclear.
On one hand, Sterling suggested on Tuesday night, in his first public interview on the subject of the Clippers, that he might be ready to let go:
"I feel fabulous, I feel very good. Everything is just the way it should be, really," Sterling told NBC4's Fred Roggin during a brief interview on Tuesday before a charity dinner benefiting L.A. homelessness advocacy organization Shelter Partnership. "It may have worked out differently, but it's good. It's all good."
"I'm OK, I'm OK," Sterling added. "Is the NBA OK? I'm not sure about that. Is Adam Silver OK? I'm sure he's OK."
Smiling, Sterling said he was ready to "move on."
On the other, though ... well, let's just say that Donald's definition of "move on" might differ from what the rest of us would consider heading on down the ol' dusty trail. From James Rainey and Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times:
[...] Sterling's real concern — one that might still send him to court in an attempt to block the jaw-dropping deal — is that the windfall [from the team's sale] does nothing to mend his wounded reputation.
“He doesn't want to die and have his tombstone say, ‘Here lies a mental incompetent and a racist,'” [Sterling lawyer Max] Blecher said. “He is trying to do the best he can to see whether those stigmas can be eliminated or at least reduced. ... That is what this is about.”
ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne reported last Thursday that expert neurologists found Donald Sterling to be "mentally incapacitated," enabling Shelly Sterling to become the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust that owned the Clippers and empowering her to sell to Ballmer. Blecher disputed those findings, saying his client was "far from mentally incompetent" and that the results of Donald Sterling's medical evaluation had been "grossly exaggerated."
Blecher said Monday that Donald Sterling was still considering his options when it came to legal recourse against the NBA and Shelly Sterling. The $1 billion federal antitrust lawsuit Sterling filed against the NBA last Friday seems to have been undercut by both the league's cancellation of a scheduled hearing and vote to terminate the Sterlings' ownership under the rules of the NBA's constitution, and by the Sterling Family Trust's agreement to indemnify the league for any legal judgment or settlement that Donald Sterling earned, meaning that even if he won in court, he'd basically have to pay himself and couldn't stick it to Silver or the NBA.
That still leaves Shelly, though, and according to the Times, Donald's still open to the possibility of taking action against her:
But Donald Sterling is considering suing his wife of 58 years, who asserted sole control of the family trust after doctors determined he was no longer able to conduct his own business affairs. She sold the team without her husband's involvement.
Blecher disputed the doctors' findings, saying his client was “functioning perfectly well.”
Donald Sterling would prefer to come to a settlement with Shelly Sterling, his lawyer said. Blecher implied Sterling might be willing to sign off on the sale to Ballmer, but only if his wife withdraws the doctors' statements about his mental health and her assertion that she is sole trustee of the family trust.
If that fails, Sterling might sue, the lawyer said. So far, Blecher said, Sterling has heard no response from his wife.
I can't imagine why she wouldn't rush to reply to this particular offer.
At this stage, contesting the legality of the indemnification and/or the validity of the incapacitation diagnosis may well be Donald Sterling's only means of throwing a monkey wrench into a process that just about everyone else would much prefer to see concluded as quickly, quietly and painlessly as possible. It seems difficult to envision Sterling coming away from this situation with a better reputation should he decide to sue his wife, but we've long since learned our lesson when it comes to trying to apply traditional standards of reason to the actions of the longtime Clippers owner.
We'll hold out hope that the "move on" sentiments shared in his new television interview — which, it's fair to say, went a lot better than the last one — carry the day over the "sue my wife in an attempt to rehabilitate my irrevocably damaged reputation" plan his lawyer floated in print. Since we're talking about Donald Sterling, though, we'll stop short of putting any money on cooler heads prevailing.
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- Shelly Sterling
- Los Angeles Clippers