SBD/July 11, 2014/Franchises

Shelly Sterling's Attorneys Rest Their Case; Timetable Could Hinder Sale To Ballmer

Sterling claims the Commissioner told her the ban could be reduced after the sale
Shelly Sterling's lawyers Thursday "rested their case" regarding her right to sell the Clippers during a session "without the histrionics and name calling that erupted" when her husband, Donald, was in the courtroom, according to Rainey & Cook of the L.A. TIMES. Donald Sterling's lawyers "moved to have Shelly Sterling's case thrown out, without her being validated as sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust." Judge Michael Levanas "took the request under submission, saying he would not rule until the trial resumes July 21." With "at least one lawyer on vacation, the high-stakes case is in recess until then." A ruling is "expected before Aug. 15, a deadline in the binding term sheet that calls for reasonable progress in the sale of the Clippers." Levanas has "shown impatience with Donald Sterling's lawyers when they insisted on repeating objections about the use of medical records" and "signaled he was reluctant to throw out the case on privacy grounds." The bulk of Thursday's court session "focused on Shelly Sterling and her sudden emergence ... as the force guiding the future of the Clippers."  She recalled her husband saying, "Wow, you did a good job!," when the team was sold to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. However, he became upset the next day when he received papers "removing him from decision-making power for the family trust." He remained "particularly upset by the NBA's lifetime ban and fine." Shelly Sterling recalled NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying to her that the ban "could be reduced to one year, with two additional years of probation, and the fine possibly reduced" if her husband agreed to a sale. She "relayed that information to her husband's lawyer Bobby Samini, telling him Donald should write out precisely what he wanted to agree to the sale." He "never did so and the possible compromise died." That scenario "differs from the one Silver had suggested." NBA Exec VP/Communications Mike Bass yesterday said, "The commissioner never agreed to lift or modify the ban or the fine, which both remain in place" (L.A. TIMES, 7/11).

FLIP FLOP? FOXSPORTS.com's Kevin Vaughan wrote yesterday's testimony "featured no fireworks -- only sparks" -- as Shelly Sterling repeatedly insisted that she was "not part of any secret plot to wrest the team away and sell it." She "portrayed her husband as being initially supportive of her efforts to sell the team" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/10). She said her husband "asked her to sell the Clippers when it became apparent the NBA was going to take control of the team." Shelly Sterling: "I never thought he would sue me for doing something he asked me to do. I never thought this would happen." She added of her husband possibly remaining owner, "My fear was players wouldn't play. They would sit down and have a strike. Sponsors wouldn't sponsor. It would decimate the team. There would be no team left" (ESPNLA.com, 7/11).

BITS AND PIECES
: Other notes from yesterday's testimony: Shelly Sterling added that she asked Silver whether they "could negotiate an arrangement that would allow her" to keep 50% interest in the team "or perhaps a smaller percentage, while selling a controlling interest." The commissioner "wasn't interested." She testified that Silver said, "If you can deliver 100 percent of the team, we can negotiate." She added that she "interviewed about three to five bidders at the Sterlings' Malibu home, and she spent about 12 hours interviewing the bidders." Ballmer's $1.9B bid "topped those from groups led by music mogul David Geffen and L.A. investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh" (ESPNLA.com, 7/11). Sterling claimed she told her husband that she "wouldn't be able to retain any ownership in the team," but that Ballmer had "offered to give her certain perks, 'almost more perks than I had as an owner'" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/11).

WHAT'S NEXT: USA TODAY's David Leon Moore reports Levanas "set closing arguments for July 28." though it is "unknown how long Levanas will take to make a ruling." He "told the attorneys to focus on three issues going forward" in the trial. First, "did Shelly properly comply with the terms of the trust in having Donald removed as a co-trustee, or was Donald defrauded by Shelly and/or two doctors who examined him?" Second, "after Donald Sterling exercised his right to revoke the trust agreement June 9, did Shelly have the legal right to go ahead with the sale of the Clippers?" Third, if the first two go in Shelly Sterling's favor, "does the judge have the right to make an order that is basically unappealable?" (USA TODAY, 7/11). SI.com's Michael McCann wrote under the header, "How Does Sterling Trial's Inability To Finish On Time Impact Ballmer Deal?" (SI.com, 7/10).
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