Donald Sterling opened a third legal front in his battle with his wife and the NBA over control of the Clippers, charging his wife, the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver with defrauding him when they moved to sell the team to former Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer.
In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday afternoon, Sterling asked for an injunction to freeze the $2-billion sale to Ballmer and for unspecified damages.
The action claims that Donald Sterling’s dismantling of the Sterling Family Trust on June 9 precluded his wife, Shelly Sterling, from taking any action to sell the team. Her moves to have him declared mentally incapacitated and to sell to Ballmer before that relied on fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and inflicted emotional distress on the longtime Clippers owner, his lawsuit contends.
With his June revocation of the family trust, all of the Sterlings’ assets reverted to their previous ownership state, with Donald Sterling the sole shareholder of the Clippers, the lawsuit contends.
Tuesday’s legal action comes on top of a probate trial underway in a Los Angeles courtroom, in which Shelly Sterling has asked a judge to validate her action in taking control of the Clippers after two doctors declared her husband mentally incapable. Testimony in that case Tuesday included interim Clippers Chief Executive Dick Parsons’ statement that he feared the team could enter a “death spiral” of fleeing sponsors, fans, players and coaches if Donald Sterling remains as owner.
On cross-examination, Parsons acknowledged that the team’s ticket revenues have actually increased for next year. He also said he did not know whether Ballmer would be willing to pay $2 billion again if the Clippers sale had to be redone.
The dispute over Clippers ownership includes yet another piece of litigation: Donald Sterling’s federal antitrust lawsuit. That action, still pending, claims that the NBA treated Sterling differently than other owners. Sterling has said he believes he can win up to $9 billion in damages in federal court.
The NBA and Shelly Sterling had no immediate comment on Donald Sterling’s latest legal action.