It’s always been a cleaner, easier process for the NBA if the Sterlings just sold the team.
That may or may not be happening — Shelly Sterling and her attorneys are going through the process, his attorney says he has changed his mind about selling and has revoked her right to sell — but the league is open to the idea still.
If the Sterlings can really come to an agreement to sell the Clippers by Monday night — one that completely ends Donald and Shelly Sterling’s affiliation with the NBA — the hearing to revoke their franchise ownership June 3 (next Tuesday) could be postponed, reports Michael McCann at Sports Illustrated.
According to sources, if Sterling presents the NBA with a completed agreement to sell the Clippers before Tuesday’s meeting, and if the NBA has a “favorable impression” of both the dollar amount and the incoming owners, the league would postpone the hearing until it can formally vet the purchase, sale agreement and pending owners. If the NBA later approves the transaction, the Clippers would be sold and Sterling, along with his wife and co-owner, Shelly Sterling, would no longer have any affiliation with the NBA.
Sources tell SI.com that the NBA’s top priority is for ownership to be transferred, and the league would welcome the exchange occurring voluntarily. A voluntary transfer would avert a potentially contentious hearing next Tuesday and, more importantly, avert the potential of Sterling filing a costly and lengthy lawsuit against the NBA and its owners.
This follows what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the NBA Draft Lottery:
“It is their team to sell, and so he knows what the league’s point of view is, and so I’m sure if he wanted to sell the team on some reasonable timetable, I’d prefer he sell it than we go through this process.”
There are reportedly six bids at least in. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly has bid $1.8 billion (he is worth $20 billion according to Forbes) and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN says he may be the frontrunner.
A powerhouse group with David Geffen, Oprah Winfrey and Larry Ellison have teamed with two of the Guggenheim group’s big players (those are Magic Johnson’s investors). Grant Hill’s group is said to have bid $1.2 billion. Don’t count out the reported “richest man in Los Angeles,” medical researcher and business man Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who already owns four percent of the Lakers and has been vetted by the league.
A number of the bidders have reportedly already been vetted by the league in other deals and would quickly move through the approval process with the league.
All this only works if Donald Sterling agrees to the sale — if he is going to take the league to court over this there is no reason for the league not to go through with the process of stripping him of his franchise. All of it started with Sterling’s prejudiced comments in a recording leaked to TMZ, then later in a separate CNN interview, comments that caused a backlash among fans, players and team sponsors.
Donald Sterling remains the official controlling owner in the eyes of the league (Shelly owns half through a trust) and as part of his response to the league’s charges his attorney said he planned to fight the forced sale “to the bloody end.” He has complained about the 33 percent capital gains tax he would have to pay on a sale.
The question is will he feel that way when a $1.8 billion offer (or more) is on the table?