Sterling to surrender Clippers control to wife

BANNED FOR LIFE: Donald Sterling was offered no second chance by the NBA for racist comments he made.
BANNED FOR LIFE: Donald Sterling was offered no second chance by the NBA for racist comments he made.

Donald Sterling is turning his ownership stake in the Los Angeles Clippers over to his estranged wife, and she is in talks with the NBA to sell the team, a person with knowledge of the negotiations says.

The individual, who wasn't authorised to speak publicly about the deal, said the couple reached the agreement after weeks of discussion.

''Donald Sterling is out, and there will be new owners,'' the individual told the Associated Press.

Neither Shelly Sterling nor her attorney had any comment Friday. They have been in talks with NBA lawyers for the last couple weeks.

''She wants to be able to say, 'I'm selling the team, not the NBA is selling the team,' and have meaningful control over that transaction,'' the individual told the AP.

Donald Sterling was banned for life and fined US$2.5 million (NZ$2.9m) by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after the release of a recording last month in which Sterling made racist remarks involving blacks, which comprise the majority of players in the league.

Sterling told female friend V. Stiviano not to bring blacks to Clippers games during a recorded conversation. Sterling specifically mentioned Magic Johnson, and then criticized the NBA Hall of Famer again as a poor role model during a TV interview.

Earlier this week, the NBA charged Sterling with damaging the league and its teams with his comments, and said he had engaged in other conduct that had impaired its relationship with fans and merchandising partners.

Sterling had until next Tuesday to respond to the charge. He had the right to appear at a New York hearing on June 3 in front of the other owners and make a presentation before the league's board of governors votes on terminating his ownership. He was entitled to a lawyer at the hearing, but strict courtroom rules of evidence would not apply.

It would take three-quarters of the owners to terminate Sterling's ownership, and the league said also that of Shelly Sterling.

''She has no plans to sue the NBA,'' the individual told the AP.

''She's trying to make nice.''

Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, the board chairman, would preside over the June 3 hearing. If three-fourths of the other 29 owners vote to sustain the charge, Sterling would be forced to sell the team he has owned since 1981. Silver has said he was confident he had the 23 votes that were necessary.

If Sterling did not respond to the charge within five business days, or did not appear at the hearing, it would be deemed an admission of the ''total validity of the charges as presented,'' according to the NBA constitution.

Donald Sterling's attorney had asked for a three-month delay, which the league rejected.

Article 14a of the NBA's constitution, which dealt with the consequences of termination of ownership, allowed the interest of a terminated owner to be placed under the management and control of the commissioner.

He would then have the power to exercise all of the rights that belonged to that owner, including the right to transfer all or any portion of that interest at such prices and terms that the commissioner deemed ''reasonable and appropriate''.

Ultimately, any sale of the team would have to be approved by the league's owners.

Shelly Sterling initially had said she would fight to keep her 50 per cent share of the team even if her husband was forced to sell, but the league has made it clear that all ownership interests in the Clippers would be terminated if the other owners voted to sever his control at the June hearing.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement that the league was continuing to follow the process for terminating the Clippers' ownership.

One owner, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the sale, said the league would have to be certain the buyer had no connection to the Sterling family.

Miami Heat star LeBron James was one of the first and strongest voices to speak out after the recording of Donald Sterling's comments was posted online last month.

''We don't want this to linger around our sport,'' James said.

''The quicker it gets done, the sooner we can move on.''