Sterling Saga Moves Forward With Clippers Sale
By Steven Lieberman
After a recording of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks was released in April, he was fined $2.5 million, banned from NBA games for life, and forced to sell the team along with all of his ownership rights in the franchise by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Sterling's inflammatory remarks to girlfriend V. Stiviano spawned outrage among NBA fans, players and executives -- especially Clippers players, who at one game, as a sign of protest, took off their jerseys during pre-game warm-ups and threw them at center court.
In the recording, Sterling chastises Stiviano for posting photos online of herself with African-Americans, including NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson. He tells her not to bring Johnson to Clippers games.
According to Silver's charges for termination, he stated that Sterling's "actions and positions significantly undermine and call into question the NBA's commitment to diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA's relationship with its fans; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA's relationship with marketing partners and licensees, as well as with government and community leaders."
"In the course of the investigation into Mr. Sterling's conduct, it was discovered that relevant evidence was destroyed, false and misleading evidence was provided to the NBA's investigator, and LAC Basketball, Inc. (LAC) issued a false and misleading press statement regarding this matter," said Silver.
Subsequently, the NBA Board of Governors sustained the charge by a ¾ vote on the basis of Sterling's words, actions, and views, which according to the Constitution, calls for the entirety of LAC's membership in the NBA to be "automatically" terminated.
On Friday, after some resistance from Sterling and his wife, Shelly, who is co-owner, the team was sold to Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, who put in a winning bid of $2 billion after a frenetic bidding war. A vote of the Board will be needed to make the sale final.
Ballmer's bid bested offers by investors Bruce Karsh and Tony Ressler and a group that included David Geffen and executives from the Guggenheim Group, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Karsh is a former St. Louisan who now lives in Los Angeles and is a partner in Oaktree Capital Management, an asset management firm specializing in alternative investment strategies. Forbes estimated Karsh's net worth at $1.9 billion. He and Ressler submitted an offer of $1.2 billion to purchase the Clippers, while The Geffen Group reportedly offered $1.6 billion.
Ballmer, who left Microsoft earlier this year, has an estimated net worth of $20 billion, also according to Forbes.
On Wednesday Sterling withdrew his $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA and agreed to the sale of the Clippers.
In an interview with KNBC on Tuesday Sterling appeared to put the matter behind.
He told KNBC, "I feel fabulous, I feel very good. Everything is just the way it should be, really. It may have worked out different, but it's good. It's all good. Well I'm OK. I'm OK.
The NBA had previously canceled the Board meeting that was scheduled for June 3 to vote on terminating the Sterling's ownership. No date has been set to vote on the sale of the team which will require a three-fourths majority. At this point the vote on the sale is considered a mere formality.