Donald Sterling reversed himself and dropped his support for the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, five days after he had agreed to it.
Sterling, 80, withdrew his support for the sale negotiated by his wife and will pursue a $1 billion antitrust lawsuit against the National Basketball Association because the league hasn’t agreed to revoke a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine over Sterling’s racist comments to a girlfriend, his lawyer, Max Blecher, said yesterday in an e-mail.
Sterling, a real-estate billionaire, last week agreed to drop his opposition to the sale of the team he has owned since 1981. Blecher said on June 5 that it was his understanding the NBA would lift the ban and not pursue the fine if Sterling let the sale go through.
Sterling’s wife, Shelly, agreed to sell the team to Ballmer for $2 billion to avoid the forced sale NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had sought after TMZ.com published secretly recorded conversations in which Sterling told a girlfriend he didn’t want her to bring black people to Clippers games or post online pictures of herself with Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ballmer, 58, outbid at least four other suitors for the team. Each of the bids shattered the previous record sale price for an NBA team of $550 million paid in April for the Milwaukee Bucks. Ballmer, with a fortune of $18.9 billion, is the 39th-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He stepped down as Microsoft CEO in February.
Sterling sued the NBA and Silver the day after his wife concluded the sales agreement with Ballmer, saying the NBA had violated his rights under the California constitution by banning him from games, fining him and pursuing steps for a forced sale based on a secretly recorded conversation.
Pierce O’Donnell, a lawyer for Shelly Sterling, declined to comment on Sterling’s reversal. Mike Bass, a spokesman for the NBA, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment on it.
The case is Sterling v. National Basketball Association, 14-cv-04192, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).