Donald Sterling was holed up in his Beverly Hills home as a deal to sell the team he owned for 33 years was being finalized.
Around 3 p.m., shortly before news emerged that ex-Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer had won a bidding war for the team, a Times reporter rang the doorbell at Sterling’s home, situated on a busy street just off Sunset Boulevard. A man came to the door and relayed a message to Sterling, who was in a room adjacent to the entryway, that a reporter wanted to speak with him.
Sterling refused to come to the door and, as the reporter jotted down her contact information, he barked in an agitated voice, “How could she have the nerve to come here?”
After news of the sale broke, the Times reporter arrived back at the house and approached a different man on Sterling’s driveway. He identified himself as Bobby Samini, one of Sterling’s many lawyers, and said the embattled billionaire declined to comment and was not prepared to make any statement at the moment.
But Samini insisted that the Clippers did not belong to Ballmer, regardless of any agreement reached between the tech titan and Donald Sterling’s wife, Shelly.
“There’s been no sale,” he repeatedly said. “There can be no sale without Donald’s signature.”
Despite the record-breaking price tag for the team, Samini noted that Sterling had already amassed “a couple billion dollars,” so “he could not care less” about Ballmer’s $2-billion offer. Even if the winning bid had been $10 billion, “it wouldn’t change his life in any way,” Samini said.
“He doesn’t need the money,” he said. “He’s not looking at it from that standpoint. He’s looking at it from the standpoint of he doesn’t want to sell.”
He added that Sterling felt he had poured so much into the Clippers for more than three decades and had every intention of holding on to the team he bought for $12.5 million in 1981.
As he spoke, a woman -- who was not Shelly Sterling or V. Stiviano -- appeared at the front door and asked Samini to make sure the reporter left the property once the interview was over.
Samini’s last words before departing in his BMW: “My belief is he will not sell this team.”
Throughout the afternoon, a stream of people entered and exited the two-story home, which features four white columns and an ornate chandelier visible through a large window above the front door. The home is set back from the street by two black iron gates decorated with gold-plated leaves and is shrouded by a neatly manicured row of hedges.
Many appeared to be friends, gardeners and housekeepers, but no one would stop to talk to the handful of media that had gathered on the sidewalk outside Sterling’s home, including NBC LA, KTLA and TMZ. The afternoon then took on a surreal quality, as media angled to get information and everyone inside studiously avoided them.
Early on, a woman in a black Mercedes with tinted windows pulled up to the driveway but, upon spotting a reporter, put the car in reverse and hurriedly drove off.
Later, when the front door to Sterling’s house opened, a TMZ reporter yelled out: “Did he sell? Thumbs up or down!” The approach didn’t work.
Shortly after that, two men emerged from the house, climbed into a BMW SUV and tried to make a hasty exit onto the street. But once they encountered traffic at the end of Sterling’s U-shaped driveway, the driver incessantly honked his horn and sped off once other drivers stopped to clear the way.
The presence of reporters and news trucks camped outside the home began to attract attention, and tourists stopped to peer through the gates. One car slowed down and the passengers asked a TMZ reporter if he knew who lived at the house. When he jokingly responded, “Justin Bieber,” the driver nearly lost control of the car.