Donald Sterling sues TMZ, V. Stiviano over leaked tapes

Then-L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano watch the Clippers play the Lakers during an NBA preseason game in 2010

Then-L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano watch the Clippers play the Lakers during an NBA preseason game in 2010

(Danny Moloshok / Associated Press)

Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling has filed a lawsuit against TMZ and former friend V. Stiviano over leaked recordings in which Sterling made racially charged remarks that led to him being stripped of his ownership of the Clippers.

The lawsuit, filed last week, alleges that Stiviano recorded a phone conversation with Sterling in September 2013 and that she or an associate provided the “illicitly” recorded conversation to TMZ in violation of Sterling’s right to privacy. Sterling contends in the suit that he did not know that Stiviano regularly recorded their conversations.

On the recordings, which were published by TMZ on April 25, 2014, Sterling scolds Stiviano for associating with African Americans in public and warned her not to attend Clippers games with black people.


The lawsuit alleges that Stiviano or TMZ doctored the tapes to “reflect conversations … that either never occurred, were grossly distorted and/or stated out of context.”

An attorney for Stiviano and a TMZ spokeswoman did not immediately return requests for comment.

Stiviano’s attorney, Mac Nehoray, previously told The Times that Sterling knew Stiviano recorded him and that his client had nothing to do with the recording’s public release. Sterling’s wife contended in a lawsuit that Stiviano was her husband’s mistress, but Stiviano has denied it.

The release of the tapes sparked an intense public backlash against Sterling and resulted in NBA Commissioner Adam Silver leveling a $2.5-million fine against Sterling, banning him for life and forcing the sale of the team, which was held by the Sterling Family Trust.

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After the release of the recording, Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, removed her husband as a member of the trust, citing the conclusions of two doctors who declared him to be mentally incapacitated. Her action cleared the way for her to sell the Clippers to Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion.

Last week, Sterling filed for divorce from his wife just weeks before their 60th anniversary. He cited “irreconcilable differences.”

The divorce filing alleged that Shelly Sterling has refused to turn over her husband’s share of the proceeds of the sale of the team.

In March, Donald Sterling added his wife as a defendant in his federal lawsuit against the NBA and Silver, accusing her of being in cahoots with the league and conspiring to sell the team against his wishes.

In that lawsuit, he describes Stiviano as a “former friend” and alleged that several of the statements on the recording were not made by him and were altered by Stiviano or her associates.

Times staff writer Nathan Fenno contributed to this report.

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