ESPN reports that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who has challenged his wife Shelly’s pending sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, met with Ballmer on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles to discuss the sale.
Sources told ESPN that Sterling and Ballmer had a “friendly conversation” that lasted roughly 90 minutes at Sterling’s house in Beverly Hills. They had not met in person since Ballmer completed the $2 billion deal with Sterling’s wife on May 29. But Shelly Sterling and her husband had a prior three-hour meeting on Sunday night, followed by Sterling meeting with his attorney, paving the way for the meeting with Ballmer. That Sunday meeting headed Sterling off from filing a new suit in state court Monday morning.
That deal, which had been challenged by Sterling in California state court, was to close by July 15, with a possible extension until August 15. If the sale has not been completed by September 15, the NBA has reserved the right to sell the team itself by terminating Sterling’s ownership.
The sale of the team is concurrent with the civil suit between the Sterlings; that suit is to determine whether Shelly Sterling has the power to sell the team. Shelly Sterling’s lawyers assert that she dutifully performed the procedures outlined in the Sterling Family Trust, which owns the team, after two neurologists examined Donald Sterling and found him mentally incapacitated and unfit to run his affairs. The neurologists told the court that Sterling was suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Donald Sterling and his attorneys argued that the results from the tests were invalid because no one told him the results could exclude him as a trustee. The attorneys also asserted that the doctors violated federal privacy laws when they leaked the results of his exams to attorneys in the case, but Judge Michael Levanas ruled against them last week. The attorneys had another strategy, though, arguing that the sale of the team was invalid because Sterling revoked the trust on June 9.
Shelly Sterling’s attorneys responded to that line of attack by asserting that she had a fiduciary responsibility to sell the team even if Sterling had revoked the trust, because once the trust was revoked the trust would have to pay legal and financial fees if the team were sold by the NBA. They said $480 million in loans would come due if the trust were revoked.
Donald Sterling told the court two weeks ago that his wife only agreed to sell the Clippers because she was “terrified and frightened of this NBA,” adding that he could sell the team for $2.5 billion to $5 billion because media-rights fees have skyrocketed. He continued, “Do you think Microsoft is foolish? Do you think they don’t think and wonder where they’re going to get the money back? There’s no ego involved here. There’s tremendous opportunity.”
On Tuesday, Shelly Sterling is scheduled to testify again in the civil suit as the court decides whether she can sell the team to Ballmer.