Tracking Donald Sterling's Dispute with the NBA over Clippers Ownership

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2014

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Updates from Wednesday, May 28

The NBA is working to expedite the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Ramona Shelburne and Darren Rovell of ESPN reported that bids were in. They also shed some light on the process of the sale:

Initial bids for the Los Angeles Clippers have been submitted and are being reviewed by Shelly Sterling and her advisers, while sources with knowledge of the situation say bids were mostly in the $1 billion to $1.2 billion range.


Shelly Sterling has told bidders to submit letters of interest by Wednesday, with firm offers due by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, according to sources. It is then expected that a second round of bidding will take place this weekend, with a winning bid decided upon by Monday.

If that happens, an agreement to sell the team would be in place before Tuesday's scheduled hearing in New York at which the other 29 team owners will vote on whether to force a sale of the team after Donald Sterling has a chance to make his case to them.

CNN's Brian Todd and Steve Almasy reported that bids were as high as $2 billion. 

Shelburne added what exactly people will be bidding on:

Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News first broke news of the established time frame:

Dan Woike of The Orange County Register later confirmed:

TMZ's staff has obtained and reported findings from a May 22 letter from Sterling's lawyer discussing the sale of the Clippers:

"As you know, I have been a long-time attorney for Donald T. Sterling. Mr. Sterling agrees to the sale of his interest in the Los Angeles Clippers."

The letter goes on: "This letter confirms that Donald T. Sterling authorizes Rochelle Sterling to negotiate with the National Basketball Association regarding all issues in connection with a sale of the Los Angeles Clippers team, owned by LAC Basketball Club, Inc."

Below the lawyers (sic) signature is Donald Sterling's John Hancock, saying "read and approved."

The letter, also acquired by ESPN, was sent to NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Shelburne previously reported that bids for the Clippers were coming soon:

She also talked to Sterling's lawyer about the fight to keep the Clippers:

Donald Sterling's lawyer, Max Blecher, told ESPN on Tuesday that his client "is going to fight to the bloody end" and has effectively "disavowed" the agreement he reached with his wife last week that would allow her to negotiate a sale of the team.

"I don't know what agreement she has with him, but I'm saying to you today, he disavows anything she's doing to sell the team," Blecher said. "He says, 'It's my team, and I'll sell it when and if I get around to it.'"

Asked why Sterling seems to have had a change of heart, Blecher said, "He was in a state of shock at first. Now he's recovering and he's much more feisty."


Updates from Tuesday, May 27

USA Today's Brent Schrotenboer reports on a letter that Donald Sterling sent to the league on Tuesday:

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling said the NBA's efforts to terminate his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers are "illegal" and that it would force his family to pay an enormous capital gains tax that would be "egregious," according to his response to NBA charges filed Tuesday.

In a 32-page response to the league, he said he will fight the charges and noted that he has received offers of more than $2.5 billion for the team.

His wife, Shelly Sterling, is planning to file a response to the NBA by midnight Tuesday that strongly asserts her position as an innocent bystander in the league's efforts to strip her family's ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

In the letter (full version found here), Sterling focuses on his right to privacy, specifically referencing Section 632(d) of the California Penal Code. According to the letter, that section contains the following language: "No evidence obtained as a result...of recording a confidential communication in violation of this section shall be admissible in any judicial, administrative, legislative, or other proceeding." 

Sterling also claims that it's his constitutional right to not have his confidential communications recorded.

The NBA's Vice President of Communications Mike Bass later responded to Sterling's letter (via ESPN's Darren Rovell):

"This evening, the NBA received separate responses from lawyers representing Donald and Shelly Sterling to the charge to terminate their ownership interests in the Los Angeles Clippers. These materials, together with the charge, will be distributed to the NBA Board of Governors, who will meet on June 3 at 1 p.m. in New York City to hear and vote upon this matter. Should the Board vote to sustain the charge, the Sterlings’ interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold.”

Los Angeles Times beat reporter Brad Turner also supplied Shelly Sterling's statement:

Earlier in the day, TMZ reported when Donald Sterling's wife, Shelly, will begin accepting offers for the Clippers sale:

Shelly Sterling will accept offers this week to buy the Los Angeles Clippers  ... and a frontrunner is a group led by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ... TMZ Sports has learned.

We broke the story ... Shelly met with Ballmer Sunday at her Malibu home, and our sources say his group made "a very competitive offer."

Sources tell us .. Shelly and her lawyer Pierce O'Donnell have put the word out ... they'd like to make a deal THIS WEEK.  We're also told NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is aware of what she's doing.

ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne provided another candidate who is interested in buying the team:

Meanwhile, Robert Kovacik of NBC Los Angeles had an update on the potential sale price:


Updates from Monday, May 26

ESPN's Bill Simmons reports the potential price range if the Clippers were to be sold, while also providing his own analysis:

Updates from Sunday, May 25

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN has the latest update on Shelly Sterling and the state of the Clippers franchise:

Original Text

In an effort to maximize the seemingly inevitable sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, disgraced owner Donald Sterling has reportedly agreed to let his estranged wife, Shelly, negotiate the terms, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Sterling recently received a lifetime ban from NBA commissioner Adam Silver after the release of a recording that featured Sterling making racist remarks, per

Additionally, an owner vote is set for June 3 in order to determine the fate of the Clippers' ownership. The expectation is that Sterling will be forced to sell, which is largely why Shelly is likely to control the sale.

The NBA commented on the reports, per Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

According to TMZ, the belief is that any sale with Donald Sterling at the helm would be involuntary whereas Shelly would have more leverage against the league if she spearheads the effort.

If the league doesn't cater to Shelly's desires, however, TMZ reports that a lawsuit against the NBA is possible.

Shelly's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, recently made it clear that his client should not be punished by being forced to relinquish her stake in the team for something her husband did, per

We have just received the voluminous charges and are beginning the process of carefully reviewing them. Based on our initial assessment, we continue to believe there is no lawful basis for stripping Shelly Sterling of her 50 percent ownership interest in the Clippers. She is the innocent estranged spouse. We also continue to hope that we can resolve this dispute with the NBA for the good of all constituencies.

This is despite the fact that Silver is treating the ownership stakes of Donald and Shelly Sterling as one, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

If Sterling is indeed willing to surrender power to his wife, it is surprising to ESPN's Darren Rovell given his historically litigious nature:

There is no guarantee that this transition will occur, though, since the NBA must approve it, according to Shelburne:

Doing so may be in its best interest, however, as it would almost certainly accelerate the process:

The NBA is clearly in favor of finding a new owner for the Clippers, so the league will do everything in its power to make sure that happens. Rather than putting up a fight, giving in is probably Sterling's best bet.

If nothing else, allowing his wife to take the reins will probably lead to a bigger payday for them rather than having to settle for a forced sale at a bargain.

It is entirely possible that Shelly could resist just as many expected Donald to, but this revelation definitely suggests that the NBA is moving closer toward a resolution regarding the Clippers.


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