Bogged down by litigation at the behest of current Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling; the unprecedented $2 billion sale of the franchise to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took a monumental step towards completion on Monday, when a judge ruled in favor of Shelly Sterling, Donald’s estranged wife.
Judge Michael Levanas issued a tentative oral decision, siding with Shelly Sterling on all three counts. Levanas ruled that Shelly acted properly under the terms of the Sterling Family Trust in removing Donald Sterling. He also confirmed that Shelly operated within her rights when negotiating the sale of the Clippers. Additionally, Levanas agreed that it was likely the Clippers would go into a “death spiral” if Donald Sterling continued to retain ownership of the franchise.
In another substantial victory for Shelly Sterling, Levanas granted her request for an order that will allow the sale to be completed regardless of any appeal.
"We are pleased that the court has affirmed Shelly Sterling's right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer," said NBA Executive Vice President of Communications Mike Bass in a statement. "We look forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible."
The ruling by the judge will remain tentative until it is filed in writing. Levanas plans on reviewing any objections before issuing the final ruling. This is expected to be done by Aug. 13, and the sale is expected to be completed by the Aug. 15 deadline set by Ballmer.
Donald Sterling was not present when the decision was handed down, a decision his team objected to, citing several errors that could serve as the basis for an appeal. Sterling was notified of the decision about 10 minutes after it was handed down.
"He didn't take it too hard," Donald Sterling’s attorney Bobby Samini said of his client’s reaction. "He just said, 'Keep fighting.' "
Donald Sterling still has two lawsuits pending regarding the situation. The first contends that Shelly Sterling no longer has the authority to sell the team, as Donald revoked the trust on June 9 , to become the sole shareholder. The other seeks more than $1 billion in damages from the NBA.