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Volume 23 No. 18
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Formal move against Sterling near

After two league-level committee meetings over a seven-day span, the NBA last week had yet to present to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling the formal charges intended to marshal his sale of the franchise. But with another meeting by the 10-member NBA advisory/finance committee expected this week, the procedural move to oust the embattled owner is nearing.

League executives are hoping for a fast-track sale of the franchise that would come with a compliant Sterling accepting his punishment from the league and willingly relinquishing ownership of the Clippers — all of this following the release last month of a recording of Sterling making racist comments. The alternative would be Sterling challenging the charges and a subsequent court battle over the franchise’s ownership and future control.

For its part, the NBA is pinning its procedural hopes for forcing Sterling to sell to articles 13 and 14 of the NBA’s constitution, according to sources familiar with the NBA’s bylaws. That language requires NBA owners to adhere to certain moral and ethical standards. The league believes the recorded comments made by Sterling violate those necessary league requirements, making possible a process that includes a forced termination of ownership.

Once Sterling receives the charges against him from the league in writing, he has five days to respond.

Forcing Sterling to sell would require a three-fourths vote among the full league ownership. Once any legal battles are over, the Clippers are expected to sell quickly and at a record price — perhaps as high as $1 billion.

Also last week, the league on Thursday remained in the process of hiring a new chief executive officer for the team to replace Andy Roeser, the longtime Clippers president who as of Tuesday had taken an indefinite leave of absence from his position. Until a new CEO is hired, current senior executives of the Clippers are operating the franchise in what is a typically quiet business time for NBA teams. Season-ticket renewals and new season-ticket sales efforts have already been launched. Clippers coach Doc Rivers is responsible for running the basketball operations side of the business.

The Clippers do also have at their disposal assistance from the NBA team marketing and business operations division, which stepped in and ran much of the business dealings of the Sacramento Kings in 2012 when the team was being sold to current owner Vivek Ranadivé. But with the forthcoming new CEO and a senior management staff already running the team in Los Angeles, it is unlikely that there would be substantial league assistance called upon in this form.