Los Angeles (JTA) — A Los Angeles probate judge dealt a crippling blow to Donald Sterling’s efforts to maintain control of the Los Angeles Clippers, ruling that the mogul’s wife Rochelle was within her rights to remove him from the family trust that owned the team and to sell it.
The Monday ruling in L.A. Superior Court by Judge Michael Levanas was a sweeping victory for Rochelle Sterling in her effort to sell the basketball team to Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. She had gained control of the team from Donald Sterling by removing him from the family trust that owns the team on the grounds of mental incompetence, backed by reports from two doctors.
Levanas ruled that Rochelle Sterling acted within her rights, that the sale to Ballmer could go through and, in a ruling widely described as unusual, that the sale could go forward even if Donald Sterling appeals. According to the Los Angeles Times, Sterling’s lawyers vowed to appeal the ruling, including the stipulation allowing the sale to go forward despite appeal. Sterling is also moving forward with an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, which pressed him to sell the team, and a separate lawsuit asserting his continued ownership of the Clippers.
Donald Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers has been in peril since April, when a recording was released of him making racist comments to his girlfriend. In the recording, and in subsequent comments and interviews, Sterling, who is Jewish, made reference to a number of Jewish matters as well.