NBA, Sterlings reach agreement in sale of Clippers

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The NBA and the Sterling family trust reached an agreement Friday that cleared the way for the Los Angeles Clippers to be sold to Steve Ballmer, the league announced.

The league will drop its pending charge to terminate the team's ownership and the Sterlings have agreed not to sue the NBA. The vote scheduled for Tuesday in New York, which could have terminated the team's ownership by a three-fourths vote and turned the asset over to the league for sale, has been canceled, the NBA said.

In addition, "Mrs. Sterling and the Trust also agreed not to sue the NBA and to indemnify the NBA against lawsuits from others, including from Donald Sterling," the NBA said.

Shelly Sterling's agreement to sell the team to Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO, for $2 billion, is now subject to approval by the NBA's Board of Governors. The transaction requires a three-fourths vote to pass.

The legal settlement between the NBA, Shelly Sterling and the family's trust marks a presumed end to one of the ugliest periods in NBA history. Donald Sterling, owner of the Clippers since 1983, was banned for life by commissioner Adam Silver on April 29 after an audio recording of his racially derogatory statements became public.

In addition to banning Sterling for life, Silver urged the NBA Board of Governors to initiate a charge to terminate the team's ownership -- which it did. Donald Sterling's attorneys responded May 27 with a 32-page rebuttal and said the 80-year-old owner planned to "fight to the bloody end."

Later Friday, Sterling filed a federal lawsuit against the NBA and Silver seeking $1 billion in damages along with the dismissal of his $2.5 million fine and reinstatement of former team president Andy Roeser. The lawsuit raises more questions than it answers, such as: Should Sterling be suing his wife or the NBA? If Shelly Sterling's sale of the team is contested by Donald Sterling, will the NBA have no choice but to move forward with its termination vote -- and then fight it out in court?

Ballmer, who has chased NBA ownership for years, offered to pay a price that is more than four times the record for an NBA franchise. In the past 24 hours, Donald Sterling has reportedly been found by experts related to the family trust to be mentally incapacited -- assertions his lawyers have called "absurd."

The sale of the Clippers has become the messiest $2 billion transaction in sports history. Friday's settlement put at least a ceremonial end to a saga that has damaged the NBA's reputation, caused sponsors to flee and overshadowed one of the league's best playoffs in years.

The NBA's complete statement:

The NBA, Shelly Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust today resolved their dispute over the ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. Under the agreement, the Clippers will be sold to Steve Ballmer, pending approval by the NBA Board of Governors, and the NBA will withdraw its pending charge to terminate the Sterlings' ownership of the team.

Because of the binding agreement to sell the team, the NBA termination hearing that had been scheduled for June 3 in New York City has now been cancelled. Mrs. Sterling and the Trust also agreed not to sue the NBA and to indemnify the NBA against lawsuits from others, including from Donald Sterling.


 
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