Sterling Files Civil Suit Against NBA; Interim CEO Says Rivers Could Leave
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling has launched another lawsuit against the NBA, marking his third current legal battle.
The suit was filed after interim CEO of the LA Clippers gave an explosive testimony Tuesday in the Donald Sterling trial, predicting the effect on the team, should Sterling remain the owner.
Richard Parsons testified for 75 minutes that, if Sterling were to remain the owner, the Clippers would lose critical sponsors, players, and even head coach Doc Rivers.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, news broke that Sterling had filed a civil suit against the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, as well his wife Shelly Sterling.
The civil suit is reportedly separate from his federal lawsuit against the league, in which he is suing for $1 billion in damages. In the civil suit, Sterling and his attorneys are looking for a different judge to rule in his favor as sole owner of the team.
“For the court to recognize that going forward, right now, Donald is the sole shareholder, and he’s the only one, then, that has the right to vote (in) the Board of Directors, put in the officers, and make decisions going forward for the corporation,” Sterling’s attorney Bobby Samini said.
The suit is based on Sterling’s argument that, since he revoked the Sterling Family Trust on June 9, he would have become the only one who could legally sell the team.
“It has nothing to do with derailing a sale or not, and I don’t think we’ve been coy about this,” Samini said. “We’ve always said we’re going to fight, and we’re not going to sell the team.”
Part of Parsons’ testimony focused on the offer of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to buy the team for $2 billion.
“I think it’s a knockout price,” Parsons said. “There is no way you can get to this price on any financial metric basis. It’s not a financial transaction in my judgment. It’s like a Faberge Egg. What is its value? It is a value to the person who wants to own it, wants to acquire it.”
Parsons, who used to be the CEO of Time Warner, then touched on what the Clippers’ sponsors had to say on the financial effect of Sterling’s continued ownership.
“We’re in so long as Donald Sterling is out,” Parsons said the sponsors told him.
The players and coaches on the team, too, have their own career futures riding on the outcome of the trial.
“I have had conversations with coaches and players that have led me to believe, we may have a defection at the beginning of the season,” Parsons said. “We could lose coaches, including head coach (Doc Rivers), we could lose players.”
Parsons made the point that Rivers, on three separate occasions, had expressed to him that, should Sterling remain the owner, he would prefer to leave the Clippers.
“If Doc were to leave, that would be a disaster. Doc is the father figure of the team. Doc is really the guy who leads. He’s the coach. He’s the grownup. The team believes in him, and in my opinion, if he were to bail, that accelerates the death spiral.”
Samini calls Parsons’ testimony “surprising”, and was curious why Shelly Sterling’s camp hadn’t called Rivers or the players to the stand to make their own claim.
“I haven’t heard anybody come into court and say ‘I’m going to quit my job’ yet,” Samini said.
Shelly Sterling’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, suggests that as her estranged husband continues his legal battles, the impact will continue to be felt by the Clippers.
“The longer that Donald Sterling is there, the longer that he’s suing everybody, and the longer that he seeks to hold on to the team, the value of our beloved Clippers will plummet,” O’Donnell stated. “It will drop like a rock.”