Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling does not have the authority to stop a $2 billion sale of his team because he has been determined to be mentally unfit to make decisions related to the family trust, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
The Sterling Family Trust owns the team, with Donald and his wife Shelly each owning a 50% share. The trust spells out provisions and procedures related to the mental capacity of the trustees, and Donald Sterling did not meet the standard in a determination by experts, giving his wife sole decision-making power for the trust, the person said.
Shelly Sterling reached a deal Thursday with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to sell the Clippers for a record $2 billion. The contract was sent to the NBA for approval a few days before the league’s Board of Governors was set to vote on whether to terminate the Sterlings’ ownership of the team.
As part of the deal, Ballmer gets 100% of the team, though Shelly Sterling still could be involved in the franchise in some other capacity, the person said.
“Shelly Sterling was acting under her authority as the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust which owns the Clippers,” said a news release issued late Thursday by Shelly Sterling’s representatives.
“I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner,” Shelly Sterling said in the statement. “We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”
Donald Sterling’s attorneys didn’t return calls Thursday night from USA TODAY Sports. After Sterling authorized his wife in writing last week to sell the team on his behalf, his attorney this week said he had reversed course, did not want to sell and instead wanted to fight the NBA, which banned him for life on April 29.
But Shelly Sterling continued to entertain offers for the team even as her husband’s attorney said he did not want to sell.
Now it’s up to the league to approve the deal and possible further battles with Donald Sterling, if he chooses to fight to keep the team he bought in 1981 for about $12 million.