News

Trial over $2B Clipper sale starts with Sterling no-show

Trial over $2B Clipper sale starts with Sterling no-show

CLIPPERS CONTROVERSY:Shelly Sterling, 79, (L) arrives at court with her lawyer Pierce O'Donnell in Los Angeles, California July 7. Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The trial over the $2 billion sale of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers got off to a rocky start on Monday with the team’s co-owner Donald Sterling skipping proceedings that were delayed several times by legal wrangling and courtroom gamesmanship.

The attorney for Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, called Sterling as the first witness in the trial, but the 80-year-old real estate billionaire, whose doctors have said he has Alzheimer’s disease, was not in court. “Mr. Sterling was supposed to be here today,” lawyer Pierce O’Donnell told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas.

Levanas will decide whether Shelly Sterling, 79, acted in accordance with the family trust that owns the Clippers in ousting her husband as the controlling trustee before striking a deal to sell the franchise to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer for an NBA-record price.

O’Donnell said Sterling, who is expected to testify during the four-day trial, was served a subpoena through his attorney earlier in the day, and his counsel said that he would be in court on Tuesday to testify.

“He was called as a ploy just to show he wasn’t there,” Donald Sterling’s attorney, Gary Ruttenberg, said outside court. Sterling’s no-show came after a federal judge rejected his attorneys’ last-minute request that the trial be moved to federal court because they accuse Shelly Sterling of violating her husband’s privacy rights by releasing his medical records.

STERLING’S NEUROLOGIST TESTIFIES

Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA in April for racist remarks he made privately that were taped and published during the Clippers’ playoff run.

The real estate billionaire’s comments imploring a girlfriend not to associate with black people sparked public outrage and caused sponsors to cut ties with the team while players considered a boycott.

Donald Sterling’s attorneys say he was misled by his wife into submitting to medical examinations that determined he had early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and could not handle business affairs.

The physicians’ findings handed sole control of the franchise to Shelly Sterling, according a provision in the family trust.

Neurologist Meril Platzer, who examined Sterling at his home and was of the opinion he has Alzheimer’s, testified on Monday that Shelly Sterling contacted her out of concern for Sterling and the doctor was not aware of trust provisions until later.

The sale to Ballmer has been tentatively approved by the league but must be voted on by other team owners. The vote is scheduled for July 15 – the same day Ballmer can back out of the deal if it is not approved.

The NBA has said it could seize the Clippers from the Sterlings and put the franchise up for auction if the deal is not approved by Sept. 15.

Sterling, who has owned the Clippers for 33 years, has also sued the NBA and its commissioner, Adam Silver, for $1 billion in damages.

(Editing by Mary Milliken, Bernard Orr and Cynthia Osterman)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Today’s celebrity birthdays

tomlin

These celebrities will celebrate their birthdays on Labor Day.

in Entertainment

This weekend’s celebrity birthdays

diaz

A look at the celebrities who will be celebrating this weekend.

in Music

CHART TOPPERS: This week’s top pop songs

magic

LISTEN: This week's top pop songs, according to the latest Billboard chart.

in Entertainment

WATCH: 10 best ‘Simpsons’ episodes

In this photo released by Fox, Homer explains why he wants to bring back the annual 4th of July fireworks display, after it's cancelled for budget reasons, in the "Yellow Badge of Cowardge" Season Finale episode of "The Simpsons," in May 2014. The full 25-year run of "The Simpsons" will arrive on cable channel FXX with a summer marathon, to be paired this fall with a digital extravaganza that could turn other TV shows yellow with envy. "I'm not going to over-promise, but I think this website will provide you with affordable health care," longtime "Simpsons" executive producer Al Jean told a TV critics' meeting Monday, July 21, 2014.

The recent marathon of all 552 episodes of "The Simpsons" inspired us to sit down and come up with our 10 favorite episodes. Enjoy!

in Music

Robert Plant urges Jimmy Page to give up Led Zeppelin reunion

2012 Kennedy Center Honorees and members of the band Led Zeppelin, from left, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant chat on the red carpet after arriving at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors Performance and Gala Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 at the State Department in Washington.

Robert Plant has urged his former Led Zeppelin bandmate Jimmy Page to end his war of words with the singer and concentrate on recording new music.