(Adds statement from NBA spokesman)
By Alex Dobuzinskis and Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES, May 23 (Reuters) - Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, banned for life from the NBA for taped racist comments, has handed over control of the team to his wife who is negotiating with the NBA to sell the Clippers on her terms, according to media reports on Friday.
Under pressure from the NBA to sell the team, Sterling transferred control to his estranged wife, Shelly, and she is negotiating with the NBA, celebrity website TMZ reported, citing unnamed sources.
Reuters could not confirm the reports. Shelly Sterling’s attorney declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Clippers.
“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.
League commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and threatened with the forced sale of the Clippers after an audio recording surfaced last month of a conversation in which the Clippers owner berated a female friend, V. Stiviano, for publicly associating with black people.
The recording made Sterling the focus of widespread outrage, angering fans and NBA players and causing commercial sponsors to back away from the team.
Silver has signaled a willingness to strike a deal to avoid a showdown in his efforts to oust Sterling.
The commissioner said on Tuesday he would prefer to let Sterling sell his team “on a reasonable timetable” rather than proceed with trying to forcibly terminate his ownership. The statement came a day after the league formally charged that racist comments made by Sterling have so seriously damaged the NBA that he should be removed.
The league has given Sterling until May 27 to respond to its charge and invited him to appear at a special hearing before the NBA Board of Governors set for June 3, after which the league’s 29 other owners who make up the board could vote to strip him of his team.
Donald Sterling bought the Clippers, who were then based in San Diego, in 1981 for about $13 million. The team is now worth at least $575 million, according to Forbes. (Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by Gunna Dickson)