Shelly Sterling headed to court to ask go-ahead for Clippers sale
(CNN) — Donald Sterling is mentally sound and is still a co-trustee in the Sterling family trust with his wife, Shelly Sterling, said Maxwell Blecher, attorney for Donald Sterling.
“It strikes me as totally incredible to argue that this man — I talk to him every day — is incapable of making decisions and is mentally incompetent,” Blecher told CNN on Tuesday afternoon. “And I don’t believe any court is going to make a finding to the contrary.”
Donald Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, intends to ask a California probate court on Wednesday morning to “verify her standing” as the head of the family trust and rule that she had the right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
Shelly Sterling announced May 30 that she had reached an agreement to sell the franchise that her husband bought in 1981 to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion.
Technically, a family trust owns the Clippers. Last month, two sources with detailed knowledge of the situation told CNN that two neurologists have deemed Donald Sterling to be mentally incapacitated.
According to one of the sources, there is a provision in the Sterling family trust that says if either Donald Sterling or Shelly Sterling become mentally incapacitated, then the other becomes the sole trustee.
Blecher, firmly shot down this report, calling such a declaration a “vast overstatement.” Blecher said his client was diagnosed with a “modest mental impairment” or a “slowing down.”
“(Sterling is) far from incapacitated,” his lawyer said.
At the time, the National Basketball Association released a statement that said the dispute between the league, Shelly Sterling and the Sterling family trust had been resolved.
Donald Sterling initially vowed to fight the sale and filed a lawsuit against the NBA, then said he was going along with sale — until Monday, when he again pulled his support.
“From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. I have worked for 33 years to build the team,” Donald Sterling said in a statement, forwarded to CNN by his lawyer Max Blecher.
Sterling, 80, has been embroiled in controversy since a recording of a conversation with friend V. Stiviano included a series of racist comments.
The comments, first posted on TMZ, sparked outrage among NBA players, executives and fans. The commissioner fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him for life from the NBA.
He also made inflammatory comments to CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” about African-Americans, which the NBA had planned to use as part of its evidence against Donald Sterling in an owners’ meeting where a vote would be taken on whether to terminate Sterling’s ownership rights. The meeting was canceled.
His lawsuit makes clear that he believes the NBA has no right to force such a sale, and the league was wrong in banning him for life and fining him.
In addition to damages, the lawsuit seeks a restraining order.
By Brian Todd and Steve Almasy