Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling would remain close to the organization under terms of the pending sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to two individuals close to the negotiations.
The individuals, who are not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press the $2-billion US deal allows for up to 10 per cent of the team — or $200 million — to be spun off into a charitable foundation that Shelly Sterling would essentially run. The deal was negotiated by Shelly Sterling after husband Donald Sterling's racist remarks to a girlfriend were publicized and the NBA moved to oust him as team owner.
One of the individuals said Shelly Sterling and Ballmer would be co-chairs of the foundation. The individuals said the foundation would target underprivileged families, battered women, minorities and inner city youths. "To benefit those on the receiving end of Donald's rather abhorrent remarks," one individual said.
The idea to allow Shelly to continue some role was floated early on by her attorney, Pierce O'Donnell — neither he nor Shelly Sterling responded to a request for comment — and it was enthusiastically agreed to by the NBA. "The NBA was all over it in terms of support," one of the individuals said. "It gave her a meaningful role and stake in the team, and gave the NBA 100 per cent sale of the team."
However, the NBA made clear she wouldn't be involved with the basketball franchise.
"It is not accurate that Mrs. Sterling will have a role with the Clippers or stake in the team," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
Donald Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, did not comment.
But it's unclear if this deal will ever materialize as Donald Sterling still had not signed off on the deal's terms because the NBA would not agree to revoke its $2.5 million fine and lifetime ban, according to one of the individuals.
Sterling had agreed to sell the team Wednesday and drop his $1 billion federal lawsuit against the NBA assuming "all their differences had been resolved." But now he's considering continuing the suit after being told by intermediaries the NBA won't budge on the punishments doled out by Commissioner Adam Silver after Sterling's racist comments were publicized.
NBA owners must approve sale
Donald Sterling's consent to his wife's potentially record-breaking $2 billion deal was the first sign of an end to weeks of uncertainty. The NBA's owners must approve the deal.
Donald Sterling's comments to V. Stiviano included telling her to not bring black people to Clippers games, specifically mentioning Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. They resulted in a storm of outrage from the public and players and even prompted President Barack Obama to comment on what he called Sterling's "incredibly offensive racist statements."
Silver ultimately decided to ban Donald Sterling for life and began efforts to force Sterling to sell the team.
Donald Sterling's federal lawsuit alleges that the league violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an "illegal" recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. It also said the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale.
For weeks, Donald Sterling said through his attorneys that he'd fight the NBA's attempt to oust him as a team owner. But last week Shelly Sterling utilized her authority as sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers, to take bids for the team and ultimately negotiate a deal with Ballmer.
Under the deal Shelly Sterling would also get the title of "owner emeritus" and be entitled to continuing perks such as floor seats, additional seats at games and parking.
One of the individuals said the deal also includes conditions that allow Ballmer to buy back the 10 per cent portion of the team for a pre-designated price upon Shelly Sterling's death.
"All the proceeds go to charity, it's not going to go to her," an individual said. "She's walking away with a $2 billion check. That's enough for her."