The National Basketball Association formally told Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling that it intends to force a sale of the team in the wake of his racist comments that got him banned from the league for life.
Sterling, according to the NBA constitution, has until May 27 to respond, the league said today in an e-mailed statement. He is also allowed to present his side in front of the NBA’s Board of Governors at a June 3 hearing.
The board will then vote whether to oust the 80-year-old Sterling. A 75 percent majority, or 23 of 30, is needed to force the sale. The NBA hasn’t said when that vote would be held.
An attorney for Sterling’s wife, who is a co-owner of the Clippers, said in an e-mailed statement today that “there is no lawful basis for stripping Shelly Sterling of her 50 percent ownership interest.”
“She is the innocent estranged spouse,” Pierce O’Donnell said in the statement. “We also continue to hope that we can resolve this dispute with the NBA for the good of all constituencies.”
Donald Sterling, a real-estate billionaire who bought the Clippers in 1981, told a female acquaintance in audio that was posted on the website TMZ on April 25 that he didn’t want her bringing black people to his team’s games and that he didn’t approve of her posting a photo with Hall of Famer Magic Johnson to Instagram.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling four days later, fined him $2.5 million and said he’d urge the other owners to force him to sell.
Sterling apologized and asked for forgiveness in a televised interview last week. Max Blecher, an attorney for Sterling, told the NBA in a letter that his client won’t pay the fine and intends to fight the punishment in court.
Blecher declined in an e-mail to comment on today’s news.
Several groups have said they would be interested in purchasing the Clippers, who were eliminated last week by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Clippers, which Sterling bought for about $12 million, are now worth more than the $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks last month, according to Rob Tilliss, founder of Inner Circle Sports, which represented Apollo Global Management LLC co-founder Joshua Harris in his purchase of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.
Dick Parsons, a former Citigroup Inc. chairman and Time Warner CEO selected to serve as interim chief executive officer of the Clippers, said last week that he thinks the league will prevail in its efforts to change ownership of the team.