LOS ANGELES: With a $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers hanging in the balance, a judge is set to determine Monday if the terms of a family trust alone are enough to confirm Donald Sterling was properly removed as trustee and allow his estranged wife to sell the team without his consent.
Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas will hear arguments from attorneys representing each of the co-owners, Donald and Shelly Sterling, a week after he suggested in comments to the court that the terms alone seemed so unambiguous and clear that “I could decide this case in five minutes.”
In May, two doctors who examined the 80-year-old Sterling declared he was mentally incapacitated and unable to act as an administrator of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers.
The trust’s terms say incapacitation can be determined by two licensed doctors without ties to the family who are specialists in their field.
Shelly Sterling struck a deal to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer after Donald Sterling’s racist remarks to a girlfriend were publicized and the NBA moved to oust him as owner.
In court filings, Donald Sterling’s attorneys argued that Sterling submitted to medical examination “under false pretenses,” and that the examination and letters regarding his mental capacity were defective and incomplete. They say he should be able to call his own experts at a trial set for July 7.
Because their main expert will be out of town then, the judge will also determine whether he can be deposed on video or if the trial will be postponed as requested by Sterling’s attorneys.
An expedited trial date was provided because of the urgent timing of the deal. The NBA’s owners are scheduled to meet July 15 to vote on the deal, which they must approve. And if the sale isn’t completed by Sept. 15, the league could seize the team and put it up for auction.