LOS ANGELES — A lawyer for the man offering to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion told a judge Friday that Donald Sterling’s stalling tactics are threatening to doom the sale by pushing it past a contractual deadline.
At a hearing to set parameters for the rest of a probate trial, attorney Adam Streisand implored the judge to make a swift decision when hearings conclude July 28.
He said the final deadline for closing the deal with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was extended by a month, but “the deal ends on Aug. 15.”
A month later, the NBA can seize the team and sell it at auction, Streisand said.
Sterling has vowed he’ll never sell the team and is suing to block his wife’s single-handed deal to do so after the NBA banned him for life for making racist statements. He has denied he is a racist from the witness stand.
Streisand said a ruling in favor of Shelly Sterling would set off lengthy appeals that also could stop the sale. Outside court, he said Donald Sterling’s refusal to sell the team is “a suicide mission by a madman.”
In spite of the looming deadlines, Sterling’s attorney, Gary Ruttenberg, who weighed in by phone, asked to further delay proceedings, insisting, “This case has been railroaded on a bullet train.”
Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas disagreed and said the schedule was clear from the beginning. When Ruttenberg asked for time to obtain review of that ruling from an appellate court, the judge said curtly, “That’s denied.”
Levanas also barred Sterling’s lawyers from calling opposing counsel to the witness stand. He also rejected a bid to strike the testimony and reports of two doctors who found the 80-year-old has Alzheimer’s disease and is incapable of acting as administrator of the family trust that owns the Clippers. Their finding is what opened the door for Shelly Sterling to broker the team’s sale.
Three days of hearings, at which Donald and Shelly Sterling may return to the witness stand, begin Monday.
Attorney Pierce O’Donnell, who represents Shelly Sterling, told reporters her legal team has decided against challenging Donald Sterling’s competency in court because it would lead to “a battle of the experts” that would prolong the trial.
Streisand said Donald Sterling is motivated by ego in stalling the sale, despite the incredible value he’d get for the team.
Attorney Bert Fields, who cross-examined Sterling, said he revealed himself as “a mean, nasty man who doesn’t give a damn about his own family. For his ego, he’s willing to give up benefits to his children and grandchildren from this sale.”
Outside court, Donald Sterling’s lawyer, Bobby Samini, echoed his client’s wishes. “We’re going to do everything in our power to stop the team from being sold,” he said.
He said Donald Sterling’s plan “was never to sell the team” and he could get more than the offered $2 billion for it.
“It’s not about his ego,” Samini said. “He’s made it clear he believes his privacy rights were violated and what the league did wasn’t legal.”