Sterling Loses Bid to Reverse Ballmer-Clippers Deal

The record $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team to billionaire Steve Ballmer won’t be reversed by a California appeals court.

The appeals court today rejected the request by the team’s former owner to put on hold the court order confirming that his wife, Shelly Sterling, had the right to sell the Clippers. Even if the sale hadn’t closed, Donald Sterling had failed to show that a stay should have been granted, according to copy of today’s order provided by Shelly Sterling’s lawyers.

The closing of the deal concluded a 3 1/2-month ordeal for the National Basketball Association that began when audio of Donald Sterling telling a female friend he didn’t want her bringing black people to his team’s games was posted on the Internet. The aftermath included condemnation from players and businesses associated with the game, threats of boycotts, lawsuits and the highest sale price -- by almost four times -- for an NBA franchise.

Sterling bought the Clippers in 1981 for about $12.5 million. Before the sale to Ballmer, the most paid for an NBA team was $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks. That franchise was sold this year to Avenue Capital’s Marc Lasry and Fortress Investment Group co-founder Wes Edens.

California Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas issued a tentative decision on July 28 that gave Shelly Sterling the authority to complete the sale of the Clippers after she had her husband legally removed from their family trust due to mental incapacitation. The decision allowed Ballmer to proceed with his purchase even if Sterling appealed the ruling.

Never Sell

Sterling testified in the case that he would never sell the team and that he would sue the NBA until the day he dies.

“We who represent Donald Sterling are deeply disappointed that he has been deprived from ownership of the Clippers after 33 years without being accorded appellate review of this harsh result,” his lawyers, Bobby Samini and Max Blecher, said in an e-mail. “Nevertheless, we are confident Donald will be completely vindicated in his federal case against the NBA. More importantly, we believe that the ‘popular’ ruling in the Probate matter is a serious blow to the Privacy rights for all Americans.”

The case is Sterling v. Sterling, B258151, California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, Division 8 (Los Angeles).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.