12:49pm: The NBA issued a response to the news via press release, suggesting that the league is unmoved by the proposal to have Shelly Sterling conduct the sale of the team.
“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 the statement.
11:11am: Shelly Sterling has agreed to sell the team only if she gets to keep a minority stake, as USA Today’s Brent Schrotenboer, Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick report. Since the league insists she would have to relinquish her ownership in entirety as part of any sale, as Shelburne noted, this appears to be a stumbling block.
10:36am: Several in ownership circles expect the Clippers to sell for more than $1 billion, and one source tells Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com that there’s a decent chance the selling price ends up closer to $2 billion than $1 billion, echoing a report from Grantland’s Bill Simmons (Twitter links).
9:49am: Donald Sterling has agreed to let wife Shelly Sterling negotiate the sale of the Clippers, a source tells Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The NBA hasn’t approved the arrangement yet, Shelburne adds (on Twitter). The league won’t consider the Sterlings’ proposal unless they divest themselves of 100% of their ownership of the club, according to Shelburne. TMZ first reported that Donald Sterling was putting the future of the Clippers in his wife’s hands.
The news is a startling turn, given the widespread assumption that Donald Sterling would put up a strong legal fight to retain the team as the NBA looked to strip it from him. The TMZ report suggests that Shelly Sterling still intends to sue if the league attempts to conduct the sale itself rather than allow her to run it, but it nonetheless is the first indication that the Sterlings are resigned to losing the team.
Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life late last month after determining that he made several racially charged comments on an audio recording. The Board of Governors is set to vote June 3rd to terminate his ownership, and the league maintains that would apply to Shelly Sterling as well. The Sterlings own the Clippers jointly as part of a family trust.
Shelly Sterling and her attorney have vehemently fought the assertion that the NBA’s punishment of her husband should apply to her. She claimed that she was a part of the league’s efforts to find an interim CEO for the team, though a report suggested her hope has been to control a 50% stake in the team and act as a hands-off owner. Dick Parsons, whom the league named interim CEO of the franchise two weeks ago, dismissed the notion that Shelly Sterling had any existing role with the team or that she would have one in the future.
Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners are willing to jointly pay in excess of $1 billion to purchase the Clippers, and a slew of other prospective buyers have lined up. Still, it’s unclear if Johnson, one of the subjects of Donald Sterling’s racist remarks, would want to negotiate with Shelly Sterling, or if Sterling would want to do so with him. Donald Sterling reportedly fears that the league has been trying to engineer the sale of the team to Johnson. Sources told Claire Atkinson of the New York Post that billionaire Antony Ressler is preparing to try to buy the team, and Atkinson hears Ressler is a longtime friend of Donald Sterling. It’s possible, given the close proximity of the timing of Atkinson’s report and the news of Donald Sterling’s willingness to let go of the team, that the Sterlings have Ressler atop their list of preferred buyers, but that’s just my speculation.