As the court battle between Donald Sterling and his wife Shelly Sterling continues, the fate of the Los Angeles Clippers looks increasingly uncertain. Two weeks ago, we saw the beginning of the case to decide control of the Sterling Family Trust — which, for the NBA's purposes, will also decide if Mrs. Sterling can sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record sum. Over the course of a few days, Donald Sterling confirmed virtually everything negative about his association with the world's largest basketball league, engaging in activities and making comments ranging from the irresponsible to the bizarre to the grotesque.
Despite Sterling's actions essentially deciding the case in the court of public opinion, the legal matters have yet to be resolved. On Monday, Darren Schield, chief financial officer of the Sterling Family Trust, took the stand. He did not paint a pretty picture of Sterling's financial situation in the event that he does not sell the Clippers. Linda Deutsch of the Associated Press has the details:
The chief financial officer of Donald Sterling's properties said Monday that the billionaire may be forced to sell a large portion of his real estate empire to cover $500 million in loans if he persists in refusing to sell the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion.
Darren Schield, who oversees the finances of The Sterling Family Trust, testified Monday that three banks are ready to recall their loans to Sterling because of his decision to dissolve the trust. His move was designed to rescind his signed agreement for the sale of the Clippers, a team he bought for $12 million.
Schield said if Sterling has to dump $500 million worth of apartment buildings he could destabilize the Los Angeles real estate market. [...]
Sterling attorney Maxwell Blecher suggested that Sterling could take the company public in order to raise funds. But Shelly Sterling's lawyer, Pierce O'Donnell asked if it would be easy to go public ''with Donald Sterling's reputation.'' Schield responded: ''There's huge reputation issues. I don't know if anyone would want to go into partnership with him.''
Sterling's continued ownership of the Clippers has been spoken of primarily as hurting team's (and the league's) public image, but it has rarely been discussed as a financial negative for the family. In his own testimony, Sterling said that not selling the team would be a massive financial boon.
Perhaps he is starting to believe Schield's analysis. In what must be noted as a potentially unrelated move, Sterling met with his potential successor as Clippers owner on Monday afternoon. From Ramona Shelburne for ESPN.com:
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling met with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles to discuss the pending $2 billion sale of the franchise, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.
While no settlement was reached, sources said the two men had a "friendly conversation" for about 90 minutes at Sterling's house in Beverly Hills in their first face-to-face meeting since Ballmer negotiated the record-setting sale with Shelly Sterling on May 29.
The original agreement called for the sale to close by July 15, with a possible extension to Aug. 15. The NBA has the option of resuming termination proceedings and subsequently selling the team itself if the sale is still in limbo by Sept. 15.
The meeting was arranged Sunday night following a three-hour meeting earlier in the day between Donald and Shelly Sterling, sources said. Donald Sterling had been preparing to file a new suit in state court on Monday morning before he and his wife spoke at length Sunday night at Donald's house. He then asked to meet with Ballmer after the meeting with Shelly and a meeting with his attorney, sources said.
We should not jump to conclusions — this meeting ensures no speedy resolution to the situation and could even lead to further disagreements. When the Sterlings are involved, there is little sense in projecting a result from one news story. If we've learned one thing about this situation, it's that it could change at any moment.
Nevertheless, it would have been difficult two weeks ago to imagine Sterling acknowledging Ballmer at all. Even if just for a short period in time, he seems to have entertained the possibility that the team might be sold. That's progress towards the ending everyone but Sterling seems to want, although things could regress very soon.
Or, who knows, maybe Sterling just wants to sell Ballmer $500 million worth of Los Angeles real estate. The guy sure does seem to have plenty of cash to spare.
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