Sterling transfers control of Clippers to wife for sale

This comes as a bit of a surprise from the epically-litigious Donald Sterling, whom some expected to fight the NBA for control of his team in court. Instead of backing down and selling the team himself, as the league demanded, Sterling has transferred controlling interest to his estranged wife Shelley, who plans to sell the team on better terms:

Donald Sterling is no longer the controlling owner of the Los Angeles Clippers … TMZ Sports has learned he just surrendered control to his estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, and she is now secretly negotiating with the NBA to sell the team … ON HER TERMS.

Sources close to the Clippers organization tell us … Donald made the decision because he saw the handwriting on the wall — as long as he remained in control, the NBA would order an involuntary sale of the team.

Our sources say Shelly and her lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, have been secretly meeting with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA lawyers to “resolve the dispute amicably.”    We’re told Shelly realizes the NBA wants the team sold, but she has significantly more leverage and credibility with the league than Donald.  Her end game is simple — she won’t object to the sale, but SHE wants to call the shots.

The concession here may be to get the NBA to hold off on its effort next week to strip control of the team from the Sterlings. If the league backs off after sidelining Sterling on both the basketball and legal courts, Shelley Sterling can hold out for a larger pool of bidders with more lucrative terms than if they have to snap-sell the team before the June 3 league meeting. If the NBA went ahead and forced an involuntary sale of the team, Shelley Sterling would have filed a lawsuit and an injunction that would have tied up the situation for months, if not years.

This is an informal arrangement, at least as far as the NBA is concerned. Silver wants the team sold, and if Donald is willing to accommodate rather than sue, all the better. In effect, I’m not sure anything will proceed differently than had he just agreed to sell the team himself.

The NBA contends, if the other owners vote to remove Donald’s ownership, Shelly would also lose hers. That vote is scheduled for June 3.

The clock for Shelly to complete a sale is ticking.

Well, if the league plays ball, it’s not ticking anywhere near as urgently. It shouldn’t take very long to get bidders in line for the team now. Interested parties have known for weeks that the Sterlings would likely have to dump the Clippers, and have probably already begun pulling together investors for a potential bid. This will just raise the bar on the final price.

The league seems willing to go along with it, as long as the sale means the Sterlings are fully out at the end of the transaction:

But a source said that over the course of this week, Sterling has rethought his position and formally agreed to allow Shelly — an alternate governor of the team — to negotiate a sale.

NBA rules, however, prevent him from transferring a controlling interest in the team to anyone. A new controlling owner would need to be approved by the board of governors, and Shelly Sterling would not be approved.

It is not known whether Shelly Sterling intends to sell the team in its entirety, but that is the only way the NBA would accept the terms of this agreement between Donald Sterling and his wife, sources said.

ESPN thinks Shelley Sterling wants to keep at least some ownership position, but if that’s the case, expect this deal to fall apart soon.

Now that the Sterling matter looks like it’s on its way to a resolution, when does the NBA take up Mark Cuban’s ownership of the Dallas Mavericks?

In an interview with Inc. magazine at a business conference in Nashville, Tennessee, the Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire entrepreneur talked about his own bigotry.

“If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street,” he said. “And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face — white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere — I’m walking back to the other side of the street.”

Cuban said everyone has prejudices “in one way or the other.”

The Mavericks owner issued a five-part tweet Thursday afternoon in which he apologized to Trayvon Martin’s parents for the hoodie reference, but stood by the context of his answers and called for more tolerance.

This got a lot of attention and outrage, but it’s pretty clear from the context that Cuban was decrying these impulses, not endorsing them. So much for “honest conversations.”