(New throughout, adds source close to situation confirming
By Alex Dobuzinskis and Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES May 23 Los Angeles Clippers owner
Donald Sterling, banned from the NBA for racist remarks, has
handed controlling interest in his team to his wife, the
co-owner, and she is negotiating with the league to sell the
club, a source with knowledge of the situation said on Friday.
National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver
said this week he would prefer to let the Sterlings sell the
team "on a reasonable timetable" rather than proceed with trying
to forcibly terminate their ownership.
Donald Sterling, controlling owner of the Clippers for 33
years, came under fire four weeks ago when TMZ.com posted an
audio recording of him berating a female friend for publicly
associating with black people, including NBA great Earvin
His comments sparked widespread outrage from fans and NBA
players and led several commercial sponsors to sever ties with
In response, Silver declared Sterling banned from the NBA
for life and called on the 29 other team owners who make up the
NBA Board of Governors to force a sale of the Clippers, an
unprecedented move requiring a three-fourths majority vote.
Sterling has said through a lawyer that he would challenge
any such effort in court. His estranged wife and longtime
business partner, Shelly Sterling, who owns a 50-percent stake
in the team through a family trust, has likewise said she would
take legal action to defend her interest in the club.
The league on Monday initiated formal steps to strip Donald
Sterling of his franchise, officially charging that his conduct
so seriously damaged the NBA that it was grounds for expelling
him as an owner under the NBA's constitution and bylaws.
But the next day Silver signaled his willingness to reach a
deal with Sterling to avert a confrontation, noting that for the
time being, the Clippers were still the Sterlings' to sell.
A source familiar with the circumstances told Reuters that
Donald Sterling has since ceded controlling interest in the team
to his wife for purposes of selling the Clippers on her terms,
and she has begun quietly negotiating with the NBA to do just
that, as first reported by TMZ.com.
As described by the source, the arrangement avoids
protracted litigation and allows ownership of the team to be
transferred on a voluntary basis rather than by a
"And obviously, it's subject to the terms and conditions of
the NBA," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Attorneys for Donald Sterling and his wife each declined
comment. The NBA did not directly address any change in
"We continue to follow the process set forth in the NBA
constitution regarding termination of the current ownership
interests in the Los Angeles Clippers, and are proceeding toward
a hearing on this matter on June 3," NBA spokesman Mike Bass
said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Gunna Dickson)