LA Judge Rules Sale Of Clippers Can Move Ahead

Jul 28, 2014

A Los Angeles judge has issued a preliminary ruling against embattled LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling. The judge decided that Sterling's wife, Shelly, was within her rights to agree to an earlier $2 billion sale of the team. Dan Woike has been reporting on the story for the Los Angeles Register. He speaks with Audie Cornish about the ruling.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers can go ahead. That's the ruling today from an LA superior court judge. As far as the court is concerned, this was a probate case between the basketball team's owner, Donald Sterling, and his wife Shelly. For others, it's a case worth 2 billion dollars - the price tag of the NBA team. Three months ago, the league banned Donald Sterling for life after an audio recording was leaked in which he was heard making racist remarks in private. For more on today's court ruling against Donald Sterling, we're joined by Dan Woike. He's been reporting on the story for The Orange County and Los Angeles Register. Hey there, Dan.

DAN WOIKE: Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: So what were the legal issues at play? What did the judge rule?

WOIKE: Well, today he really decided on three separate things. The first thing was did Shelly Sterling act according to the rules of provisions of the Sterling family trust in removing her husband as a trustee due to mental incapacitation. It wasn't about his capacity per se. That was the first thing. And the judge ruled that she did, she followed the rules. It wasn't done by fraud or anything. And that didn't mean necessarily that even mattered. The second thing he ruled was - because Donald revoked the trust before the filing with the court happened, that the court also had jurisdiction on the matter despite the revoked trust. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, what he ruled was that under this probate code 1310B - this is rare - he found that there would be too much injury to the trust if the sale was halted while Donald put forward an appeal. So I guess the three of those things - I call that the kind of the sweep for Shelly Sterling. It was a monumental day for her. She's not quite out of the woods yet, but she's really close.

CORNISH: In the meantime, does Donald Sterling have any more legal options?

WOIKE: Yeah, he does. What he's going to do is he's going to file a writ, which is sort of an emergency appeal that isn't protected under 1310B of the probate code. That could take, you know, he's probably not going to file that, I wouldn't think, for around two weeks. After that, that could be decided in a matter of days or in a matter of weeks. Also he does have other letigations against Shelly Sterling and the NBA from a corporate standpoint, alleging that she didn't have the right place atop the LAC corporation. A very technical lawsuit that could kind of end around the rulings today too. So she still has to win those two fights.

CORNISH: And remind us who's in line to become the next owner of the LA Clippers.

WOIKE: It is the very wealthy and very basketball crazy Steve Ballmer from Microsoft, the former CEO. He has tried to buy multiple NBA teams. I guess most famously failing to buy the Sacramento Kings and relocate them to Seattle. You know, he's very interested in the Clippers obviously, he paid a record 2 billion dollars for them. And according to his attorney's today, there's no threat of him taking that team to Seattle. He wants to keep his investment where it's most profitable and that's in Los Angeles.

CORNISH: And, Dan, in the time we have left, is there any sense that the Clippers as a team with today's ruling?

WOIKE: You know, I think every little bit helps. It was such a dark cloud over them during the playoffs last year when this kind of became a national sensation. And they had to answer questions about it every day, every moment. I think now this kind of starts to ease the burden now, once the transition is final. I think there will be a quick little flood again of attention, but then eventually, hopefully from the player's standpoint, they can put this behind them and they can move forward with a very rich owner who wants to win basketball games.

CORNISH: Dan Woike, thanks so much for talking with us.

WOIKE: Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: That's reporter Dan Woike with The Orange County and Los Angeles Register. He's been reporting on today's court victory for Shelly Sterling. The ruling allows her to sale husband Donald Sterling's NBA team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.