LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Shelly Sterling on Wednesday asked a Los Angeles court to confirm her as the controlling owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers franchise in an attempt to block estranged husband Donald Sterling from possibly stopping the $2 billion sale of the basketball team.
Donald Sterling, 80, was banned for life by the National Basketball Association in April and fined $2.5 million by the league after tape of racist remarks he made in private were leaked to the media. He has vowed to fight the sale of the franchise and his wife’s claim that she is the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust that owns the Clippers.
Attorneys for Shelly Sterling filed the emergency request for a hearing in a bid to reinforce her status as the sole trustee of the family trust.
A four-day trial is set begin on July 7 which should offer a resolution ahead of the NBA owners’ July 15 vote on whether to approve the league’s record sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
Attorneys for Sterling, Ballmer and the NBA were also present at Los Angeles Superior Court. Sterling’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last month, two neurologists found Sterling to have Alzheimer’s disease, which triggered the clause transferring control of the trust that owns the team to Shelly Sterling.
According to the clause, Sterling would not have the standing to block the sale to Ballmer that was agreed to by Shelly Sterling and tentatively approved by the NBA.
If the Los Angeles probate court rules that Donald Sterling can halt the sale, the NBA will reinstitute a hearing among owners to terminate Sterling’s ownership, a person with knowledge of the matter said. The league canceled the original hearing after Shelly Sterling agreed to sell the team to Ballmer.
Sterling, who originally blessed the deal with Ballmer, has also sued the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver for at least $1 billion, alleging he was forced to sell the team due to a recording made illegally according to California law.
Silver has maintained that an agreement struck with Shelly Sterling following the deal with Ballmer indemnifies the league against any legal action taken by her husband, so the Sterling Family Trust would have to pay any possible damages awarded to Donald Sterling.
The Sterling Family Trust and Clippers were also accused by a former intern in federal court on Wednesday of violating labor laws for not paying its interns.
Reporting by Eric Kelsey, editing by G Crosse