Donald Sterling said he’ll “never, ever” sell the Los Angeles Clippers, the team he has owned since 1981, and that he’ll sue the National Basketball Association until the day he dies.
Sterling, 80, testified for a second day at a trial to determine whether his wife has legal authority to sell the NBA franchise without his consent to former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer.
“They are a joke, a total joke,” Sterling said about the NBA under questioning by his lawyer in a packed state courtroom in downtown Los Angeles. “This is the worst corporation in America.”
The real-estate billionaire told California Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas the NBA wanted his wife to sell the Clippers to avoid antitrust claims by him if the organization were to seize the team and sell it. He said nobody in history had been punished like he was by the NBA, which fined him $2.5 million and banned him for life after the publication of racist comments he made to a girlfriend in April.
“I’m not a racist, I love all people,” Sterling said yesterday in court.
Shelly Sterling needs a ruling by the probate judge that she acted according to the provisions of the family trust that owns the team by removing her husband as a co-trustee after having him declared incapacitated. Two doctors found he wasn’t mentally competent to share control of the trust.
$2 Billion Sale
Ballmer has made such a ruling a condition of his record $2 billion acquisition of the team. Levanas said yesterday he didn’t expect to have a ruling on Shelly Sterling’s petition by the July 15 closing deadline for the sale.
The NBA has said it may proceed with a forced sale if Donald Sterling delays the sale to Ballmer beyond Sept. 15.
Earlier yesterday, Sterling said his wife of 58 years deceived him when she had two doctors examine him in May. Sterling’s lawyers have argued that he never agreed to have the exams used to evaluate his capacity to serve as a trustee and that his privacy rights were violated by the unauthorized release of his medical information.
Sterling said he’s still in charge of five corporate entities, including his 200-building real-estate empire.
“I’m not retired, sir? Got it?,” Sterling told Bert Fields, a lawyer for Shelly Sterling who confronted Sterling with his testimony from 2012 in a different lawsuit that he was fully retired.
Shelly Sterling testified that she contacted a neurologist to examine her husband after she saw a CNN interview with him in May and friends told her she should get him tested.
“I couldn’t believe it was him,” she said. “I started crying.”
In the interview with Anderson Cooper, Sterling apologized for making racist comments, including telling the woman that he didn’t want her to post pictures of herself with NBA All-Star Earvin “Magic” Johnson online. The comments were secretly recorded and leaked to TMZ.com. In the CNN interview, Sterling also questioned whether Johnson, whose HIV-positive status he blamed on sexual promiscuity, is a good role model for children.
Shelly Sterling denied her husband’s allegation in testimony that one of the doctor’s who examined him was intoxicated.
“Oh God, no,” she said.
The judge cautioned Donald Sterling after he called his wife “a pig” after testimony ended yesterday.
In May, 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).