By Jack Wang, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 07/28/14, 2:55 PM PDT | Updated: 49 secs ago
On Monday afternoon, Shelly Sterling walked into a hallway at Los Angeles Superior Court and cried.
Moments earlier, Judge Michael Levanas had issued a tentative oral decision overwhelmingly in her favor — likely clearing the way for the Clippers’ $2 billion sale to Steve Ballmer, and ending a turbulent three-month saga sparked by Donald Sterling’s racist comments.
“I’m just happy it’s over,” Shelly said. “A great man will be taking over the team now.”
Crucially, Levanas ruled that the sale can go through regardless of appeal, a provision specified under Section 1310(b) of California Probate Code. That decision, if finalized, would essentially block Donald’s attempts to hold on to the NBA franchise he has owned since 1981.
Levanas — who called Shelly Sterling’s testimony “far and away more credible” than Donald’s — also ruled in Shelly Sterling’s favor on two other points: that she had acted appropriately in ousting Donald Sterling as a trustee and negotiating a record sale to Ballmer, a former Microsoft CEO; and that even though Donald Sterling had revoked the trust, she had the authority to complete the sale as part of the “winding up” process.
Throughout the trial, Donald Sterling’s attorneys frequently characterized the exams finding him mentally incapacitated as the “Secret Plan B,” a nefarious plot on the part of Shelly Sterling and her attorneys. Levanas dismissed the claim completely.
His tentative decision followed several hours of closing arguments from Donald and Shelly Sterling’s attorneys. Representing the latter, Pierce O’Donnell cited interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons’ earlier testimony and said the team is in a “death spiral” because of Donald Sterling’s continued involvement. That could prompt not only the exodus of sponsors, but even boycotts from coaches and players.
Donald Sterling’s attorney Stefanie Cutler, speaking for the first time in the trial, said those arguments were “purely speculative” — pointing out that no coaches or players had personally testified that they would boycott games.
She argued that it was far more likely “that Mr. Sterling will suffer a loss. If the 1310(b) exception is granted, and Donald Sterling then wins a later appeal, the sale could not be reversed.
“He will lose his trophy asset,” Cutler said.
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