The US$2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers may not be a done deal yet, with current owner Donald Sterling lodging a court appeal on Friday against an earlier judgement that his estranged wife Shelly had the right to sell the NBA club to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer’s lawyer quickly denounced the move as part of Donald Sterling’s “egotistical crusade to destroy the Clippers.”
Lawyers for Donald Sterling asked the Second District Court of Appeals to stay a probate judge’s ruling that cleared the way for the sale. They said the judge prematurely finalized his ruling so the sale can be completed without a chance to appeal.
Donald Sterling’s appellate lawyers said in their request for a writ of mandate that if the sale goes through, “Donald will have lost a unique and irretrievable asset: a ‘trophy asset’ coveted by high net worth individuals around the world — one of 30 NBA franchises in the country, and one that under Donald’s 30-year ownership has recently become one of the most successful.”
The main complaint of the appellants is the judge’s decision to allow the sale to go forward with no time for an appeal. He used a section of law that bars a stay of his decision.
Given that provision, it was unclear if the appeal would have any effect. The sale could conceivably go forward while the appeal makes its way through the courts.
Adam Streisand, the attorney for Ballmer, said in a statement: “We won this trial because Donald Sterling is on an egotistical crusade to destroy the Clippers if he can’t keep the team, and he can’t. We will win the appeal for the very same reason.”
A spokesman for the attorneys representing Donald Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, issued a statement similarly attacking his motives.
“Donald’s petition for writ of mandate is another desperate act by a desperate man,” the statement said. “The decision by Judge Michael Levanas — after three weeks of trial — is a correct decision on the law and the undisputed evidence. Donald will do anything to kill the record-shattering US$2 billion sale of the Clippers. His petition is frivolous.”
The appellate lawyers who filed the writ petition late on Friday afternoon acknowledged that Donald Sterling has a public image problem.
“Admittedly, in light of recent events, Donald Sterling does not cut a sympathetic figure,” his appellate lawyers wrote. “But the issues raised by the trial court’s decision here impact more than just him, and involve core issues of probate law and the right to appellate review.”
Shelly Sterling negotiated the record sale after the NBA banned the 80-year-old billionaire for making offensive remarks about blacks.
The writ filed by the Donald Sterling legal team demanded an immediate stay of the judge’s ruling.
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