July 8 (Bloomberg) -- Donald Sterling's response to being told he probably had Alzheimer’s disease was to say he was hungry, a doctor told a judge who will decide whether the billionaire’s wife acted properly in having him declared incapacitated and selling the Los Angeles Clippers.
Meril Platzer, a neurologist, was the first witness to testify in a trial over whether Shelly Sterling can complete the sale to former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Platzer is one of two doctors who certified that Sterling, 80, lacked competency to share control of the family trust, which his wife argues gives her sole authority over the assets, including the basketball team.
“I’m hungry, I want to eat,” Platzer said was Sterling’s response after she examined him at his home in Beverly Hills, California, on May 19 and told him her diagnosis. Shelly Sterling was upset when she heard the diagnosis, Platzer said.
Ballmer required as a condition for the sale that Shelly Sterling get confirmation from a judge that she can sell the team without her husband’s consent. The National Basketball Association has said it may proceed with a forced sale if Donald Sterling, who was banned from the league over racist comments he made to a girlfriend, delays completion of the sale past Sept. 15.
Yesterday, Sterling first lost an attempt to keep the case from going to trial by having it moved to federal court, where a judge sent it back to state probate court. California Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas then rejected a bid to postpone the case by Sterling’s lawyers, who said they hadn’t had time to prepare.
The doctors’ findings that Sterling is incapacitated shouldn’t be allowed as evidence because he never authorized them to disclose his private medical information, Gary Ruttenberg, one of Sterling’s lawyers, told Levanas.
Pierce O’Donnell, Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, called Donald Sterling as his first witness. Sterling, who wasn’t in the courtroom, may testify later.
The NBA banned Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million in April after TMZ.com reported that he told a girlfriend he didn’t want her to bring black people to Clippers games or post photos online of herself with former NBA All-Star Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Sterling claims his wife didn’t tell him that the medical examinations she asked him to undergo after he was interviewed by CNN in May would be used to remove him as a co-trustee.
In the CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, Sterling apologized for his comments and then questioned whether Johnson should be seen as a role model for children.
That month, Sterling agreed to let his wife oversee a voluntary sale of the team to avoid a forced transfer by the league. He reversed himself and sued the NBA in federal court in Los Angeles the day after Ballmer agreed to buy the team for a record $2 billion.
Donald Sterling said through his lawyer last month that he would drop both his lawsuit and opposition to the sale, only to reverse himself again days later because the NBA wouldn’t agree to revoke the lifetime ban and the $2.5 million fine. Shelly Sterling then went to court to seek confirmation of the deal. The trial is scheduled to continue today.
The case is In the Matter of the Sterling Family Trust, BP152858, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County (Los Angeles).
To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in state court in Los Angeles at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com Peter Blumberg