Los Angeles (AFP) – Banned owner Donald Sterling backs the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, and will drop his lawsuit against the NBA, his lawyer said.
Attorney Maxwell Blecher confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that Sterling planned to drop the lawsuit seeking $1 billion in damages that he filed against the league on Friday.
That suit, which also named NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as a defendant, alleged breach of contract and anti-trust and civil rights violations.
It was filed in U.S. federal court in Los Angeles shortly before the NBA said it approved the sale of the Clippers to Ballmer and would ask the board of governors to vote on it.
Sterling’s wife Shelly, acting as head of the Sterling family trust, had negotiated the blockbuster deal with Ballmer, pushing it through before the league concluded action to strip the club from the Sterlings.
The league canceled a hearing on whether to oust Donald Sterling over racially charged remarks he made to a girlfriend that sparked outrage when they became public in April.
Silver had already banned him for life from all NBA activities, and fined the real estate billionaire $2.5 million.
Donald Sterling had told Los Angeles television station NBC4 late Tuesday that he was ready to “move on.”
Appearing at a charity event, Sterling said he was content with the deal his wife had struck.
“I feel fabulous, I feel very good,” Sterling said. “Everything is just the way it should be, really. It may have worked out differently, but it’s good. It’s all good.”
As a condition of the sale to Ballmer, the NBA said last week that Shelly Sterling had indemnified the league against further legal action in relation to the case.
Therefore, even if the notoriously litigious Donald Sterling pursued and won a case against the league, the damages would have been paid by the trust.
Three quarters of the remaining 29 owners must still approve the sale to Ballmer before it becomes official.
The price tag, for a team that has never won a championship, would set an NBA record — well above the record $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks in April.
It would mark a massive financial return for the 80-year-old Sterling on a club he purchased in 1981 for just $12 million.
The 58-year-old Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft from 2000 until February this year, had tried before to buy an NBA club, hoping to relocate the Sacramento Kings to Seattle.
Last week, Ballmer was at pains to reassure Clippers fans that he didn’t intend to move the club.
Clippers supporters as well as players were thrown into turmoil when Sterling’s comments, chastising girlfriend V. Stiviano for publicizing her association with black friends, became public.
Sponsors fled, and in a country that grapples with issues of race, the controversy clouded the Clippers’ run to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Photo: Robyn Beck via AFP