Clippers owner ready to sue NBA

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iol spt may16 Sterling AP LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Photo: Mark J. Terrill

Los Angeles - Donald Sterling is prepared to sue the NBA if it goes ahead with action to strip him of his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, his attorney said Thursday.

Maxwell Blecher's comments came amid reports that Sterling's wife Shelly had fielded multiple offers for the club, including an offer by former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer that Forbes reported to be for $1.8 billion.

Blecher said Sterling wants to hear from the league ahead of a scheduled hearing before the board of governors Tuesday, when his fellow 29 owners are due to vote on whether to terminate his ownership.

“The league on Tuesday has a guillotine over Mr Sterling's head,” Blecher said. “They will confiscate his team illegally, and if they don't want a lawsuit challenging that conduct, they need to let us know before Tuesday.

“Thus far, we have heard nothing.”

Blecher said the league has no grounds to act against Sterling because the racist remarks for which he has been sanctioned came in a private conversation that was recorded without his permission, a crime in California.

“Under California law, that recording cannot be used for any purpose in any proceeding except for impeachment,” Blecher said.

The comments were posted on gossip website TMZ in April, sparking a firestorm that prompted the NBA to charge Sterling with conduct detrimental to the league.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million - a fine the defiant Sterling has already said he won't pay.

Blecher said Sterling will attend Tuesday's board meeting, only because league rules say he would surrender his rights if he fails to appear.

While Shelly Sterling was authorised by her husband to negotiate a sale of the team last week, Blecher said Donald Sterling did not believe the team could be sold without his approval.

Sterling and his legal advisers have not taken any legal action against the NBA yet because he “did not want to interfere with Mrs Sterling's effort to try to arrange a sale of the team,” Blecher added.

The club was recently valued by Forbes at nearly $600 million, but it could fetch over $1 billion according to some estimates thanks to its location in a large and potentially lucrative US market and upcoming negotiations regarding money-spinning television rights.

In addition to Microsoft's Ballmer, the Los Angeles Times reported that a group including former NBA player Grant Hill had offered $1.2 billion.


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