In a surprisingly quick resolution, the NBA announced the completion of the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday morning. The Sterling Family Trust will hand over control of the team to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer. This follows quickly on the heels of Judge Michael Levanas entering the final order against Donald Sterling and for Shelly Sterling in the probate case contesting control of the Trust.
Levanas had invoked little-known Section 1310(b) of the California probate code to allow Shelly Sterling to complete the sale of the team, even pending Donald Sterling’s inevitable appeals. The case appeared to hit a snag late last week when Judge Levanas retracted his final order entering judgment in the case, but this turned out to be a correction of a minor procedural error rather than an alteration of the substantive decision.
The sale of the team would appear to end much of the public relations nightmare for the Clippers and the NBA, as Ballmer assuming control moots the threat of player boycotts. Team sponsors and advertising partners also must be relieved that Donald Sterling is, for all intents and purposes, out of the picture for good.
In a release on NBA.com, Ballmer said “I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA. I look forward to meeting our fans at our STAPLES Center Fan Festival on Monday, Aug. 18 at 12:30 pm PT.”
This latest development, however, does not end the legal wrangling over the end of Donald Sterling’s tenure as Clippers owner. In addition to the numerous suits in various state and federal courts filed by Sterling against his wife, the NBA and Ballmer, the NBA filed a counterclaim for damages against Donald Sterling, alleging his racist comments caused “devastating and incalculable harm” to the league.
Even if Donald Sterling were to prevail in one or more of his legal maneuvers, he will be unable to reverse the sale of the team. Under Section 1311 of California probate code, the sale will stand as long as it is deemed to have been completed “in good faith and for value.” In other words, unless he could prove some sort of skulduggery on the part of Ballmer in this process, Donald Sterling’s only legal remedy would be monetary damages.