Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling cannot block the sale of his basketball team by his estranged wife, a probate judge ruled on Monday.
Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas said that Sterling was too mentally incapacitated, paving the way for his estranged wife, Shelly, to complete the previously arranged $2 billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (MSFT).
Donald Sterling had been banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million after making racist comments in April, which were leaked to TMZ.com. Soon after, his wife claimed that he had been ruled mentally incompetent by doctors and that she therefore had the sole authority to sell the team.
Levanas, the judge, announced his decision after nearly two hours of closing arguments on Monday, according to the L.A. Times. The trail took several weeks during which Donald Sterling called his estranged wife a “pig” and also hurled disparaging remarks against his own lawyers and those representing his wife.
Max Blecher, Donald Sterling’s attorney, said that Shelly Sterling was guilty of setting up an “invidious scheme to strip Donald Sterling of his ownership rights of the Clippers.” Pierce O’Donnell, an attorney for Shelly Sterling, called her husband’s arguments “for the media, not for the court.”
It’s unclear whether Donald Sterling will continue to fight the sale. But his wife can proceed with the deal in the meantime.
Technically, the judge’s ruling is an “oral tentative statement,” according to an L.A. Times report, and the judge will review objections ahead of a written ruling. But it’s clearly a big loss for Sterling.
The NBA has said that if a sale was not made by September 15, it would strip the Sterlings of their ownership.