Things went Shelly Sterling's way in probate court on Monday, clearing the way for the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer. Judge Michael Levanas announced a tentative decision in favor of Shelly on all counts.
First was that she did act in accordance with the Sterling Family Trust when she negotiated the sale after Donald Sterling was found mentally incompetent and removed as a trustee.
Judge said he found Shelly's testimony that Donald was losing capacity over the last three years to be credible.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 28, 2014
Court feels Shelly was legitmately concerned with Donald Sterling's well being up until May 29 -- finds her motivations were OK.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 28, 2014
Court finds that Shelly was told to sell the team and that she and Donald agreed to sell the team.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 28, 2014
Judge believes Shelly was credible when she said Donald wanted her to get what she could get in the sale of the team and supported her.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 28, 2014
Court finds Shelly acted properly and was acting as sole trustee when she entered into deal with Ballmer.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 28, 2014
Judge rules the trust owns the Clippers, not owned by shares that reverted to Donald upon revocation— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 28, 2014
The question of whether Sterling was legally found to be mentally incompetent is likely to be the biggest piece of the appeal that Sterling will eventually file. Sterling won't let this go, he'll keep dragging this out as long as he can. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the NBA and all its fans, that's not going to matter much because of this second part:
Levanas also ruled in favor of Shelly's request for a provision to be enacted that would allow the sale to proceed regardless of appeals from Donald Sterling.
Judge believes if NBA takes team and sells it at auction it would not go for as much because of the pending lawsuit.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 28, 2014
1310 b is looking good for Shelly Sterling so far. Judge says trust will lose $400 million if provision isn't used.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 28, 2014
Judge said the Clippers are owned by the Sterling family trust and Shelly had every right to sell the team.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 28, 2014
We're done for the day. Shelly Sterling wins the day and maybe Steve Ballmer gets the Clippers.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 28, 2014
If you're hoping this will soon be wrapped up and the sale will proceed, then this is huge news. It's not completely over just yet, however:
Judge's oral decision is still tentative pending objections filed from Donald Sterling's attorneys.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) July 28, 2014
So yeah, they'll drag it out, but the big key here is that a court-authorized sale is going to be completed. That's going to make it nearly impossible for Sterling to regain control of the team. He'll be able to pursue damages, he'll keep trying to embarrass the league. But as far as actually getting the team back, that's not happening from every legal indication, and that's a huge relief for the NBA and the players, who had discussed boycotting the team had Sterling retained ownership.
The NBA released a brief statement following the decision.
The following statement has been issued by Mike Bass, Executive Vice President, Communications, regarding today's probate court ruling regarding the Sterling Family Trust:
“We are pleased that the court has affirmed Shelly Sterling's right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer. We look forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible.”
A crushing blow for Donald Sterling, and a huge victory for the NBA, which can avoid the planned vote to terminate Sterling's ownership had the case extended past the sale's expiration date of Aug. 15 to be completed.