Forty days after his racially inflammatory remarks led to his banishment from the NBA, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling agreed Wednesday to give up his fight to maintain control of the team and to accept the record $2-billion sale arranged by his wife.
Sterling said through his attorney that he would drop his $1-billion antitrust lawsuit against the pro basketball league and allow former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer to proceed with his purchase of the Clippers, bringing an apparent end to a more than three-decade tenure during which Sterling was occasionally tagged as the worst owner in professional sports.
Sterling, 80, had suggested as recently as Tuesday, through his attorney, that he might contest the Clippers sale. He protested that his wife, Shelly, had improperly sold the team after falsely asserting that he was not mentally competent to handle his own business affairs. Donald Sterling's attorney Max Blecher had once said the battle over the Clippers could amount to "World War III."
But by Tuesday night, the billionaire apartment baron told NBC4 News that the sale of the team he acquired in 1981 for $12.5 million was "all good" and he was ready to move on. "I feel fabulous," Sterling said. "I feel very good. Everything is just the way it should be, really. It may have worked out differently, but it's good."
By Wednesday afternoon, another Sterling attorney confirmed the mercurial businessman had agreed to sell and drop his complaints against the NBA. The league, in turn, agreed that it would give up the administrative charges it had leveled against him in an attempt to get other owners to strip both Sterlings of control of the Clippers.
The NBA had not confirmed the arrangement by Wednesday evening nor what it would do with the $2.5-million fine and lifetime ban that league Commissioner Adam Silver ordered against Sterling in late April.
The end of the Sterling era apparently will come just as the team finally seems poised for big things. The Clippers made it to the second round of the playoffs this spring — their farthest advance in the post-season — and have drawn a bigger audience behind stars such as Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
While various would-be buyers had made a run at taking over the Clippers over the years, Sterling adhered to the same buy-and-hold strategy that had made him a fortune in the real estate business. He once told a reporter: “I never sell anything.”
But all of that changed on the night of April 25, when the website TMZ released an audiotape in which Sterling chastised his assistant and frequent companion, V. Stiviano, for bringing black people to games. He told Stiviano he no longer wanted her bringing blacks to Clippers games or posing with them for Instagram photos.
The public reacted with fury, NBA players threatened to boycott first-round playoff games and more than a dozen advertisers dropped or suspended their relationships with the Clippers. Silver banned Sterling from the league a few days later, leveled the record fine and began the process of stripping him of ownership.
The hearing to take the team from both Sterlings was scheduled to happen Tuesday. But with Shelly Sterling moving hastily to sell last week, the NBA canceled the proceeding and said it supported the sale to Ballmer.
The $2-billion pricetag that he paid was almost four times more than has ever been paid for an NBA team.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times