LOS ANGELES — A trial that could determine the fate of the Los Angeles Clippers was delayed Thursday until after a deadline to conclude a $2 billion sale — and a scheduled NBA vote on the deal — but there is hope for more time.
Donald Sterling has vowed never to sell the team and he’s trying to block his wife’s single-handed deal with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Attorneys for Shelly Sterling have accused his side of stalling tactics.
Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas put off the next hearing until July 21 because two of Sterling’s lawyers had plans for a vacation and a wedding anniversary. He set closing arguments for July 28.
That’s well past the expiration of Ballmer’s offer next Tuesday — the same day that the NBA is supposed to vote on it — and there is no deal without the judge’s approval of the sale.
Ballmer’s lawyer, Adam Streisand, said outside court that there’s a provision to extend the deadline another month as long as progress is being made in court.
However, it leaves the team’s future dangling.
If the sale isn’t completed by Sept. 15, the league has said it could seize the team and put it up for auction.
Shelly Sterling testified Thursday that she took on the role of selling the Clippers because the NBA had banned her husband from the league for life for making racist remarks.
Sterling said she believed that her husband wanted to sell in order to keep the NBA from confiscating the team.
“Every day, he would ask me, ‘Who did you interview? What did they offer?‘ I would give him a report every day,” she said.
Ballmer’s offer — which would be a record for an NBA team — was the highest of four offers she obtained.
“I thought it was fabulous,” she said.
Donald Sterling told her “he was very happy and proud of me,” she said.
But what it came to signing off on the deal at the end of May, everything changed.
“He started screaming and cursing at me,” she said. “He said he’s not going to sell the team. He’s going to sue the league.”
Mrs. Sterling also said she feared players and sponsors would boycott if her husband held on to the team.
Donald Sterling contends that his wife had no right under a family trust that owns the Clippers to single-handedly make the deal. Mrs. Sterling contends she had the authority.
In earlier testimony, two doctors hired by Mrs. Sterling to examine him declared that the 80-year-old had Alzheimer’s disease and was mentally incapable to act as administrator of the trust.
In his own testimony Tuesday, he alternately declared his love for his wife of 58 years with tears and then demeaned her as a woman intimidated by the “bad NBA” and incapable of handling such a large financial transaction. Before taking the witness stand, he kissed her.
But on Wednesday, he yelled “get away from me, you pig!” when she tried to approach him after her first day of testimony.