May 29, 2014

    NBA ownership ban illegal, says Clippers owner


    DONALD Sterling, banned from owning a professional basketball team for inflammatory remarks he made about African-Americans, called the National Basketball Association's (NBA's) action illegal because it was based on a "lovers' quarrel" that was "illegally recorded".

    "This was an argument between a jealous man and the woman he loved that should never have left the privacy of the living room," he said in a letter to the NBA obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

    Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the letter.

    Sterling, controlling owner of the Los Angeles Clippers for 33 years, came under fire after posted an audio recording of him criticising a female friend for publicly associating with black people, including NBA great Magic Johnson.

    The NBA said in a statement on Tuesday night that it had received a response from Sterling and his wife, Shelly Sterling, regarding the ban, and added that the league's board of governors would hold a vote on eliminating Sterling's stake at a hearing set for Tuesday, when he can address the charges before his fellow owners.

    If at least 23 of the other 29 owners vote to terminate his ownership of the franchise, the Clippers would have to be sold, the NBA said.

    NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last week that he would prefer to let Sterling and his wife sell the team "on a reasonable timetable" rather than proceed with trying to forcibly terminate their ownership.

    Sterling handed controlling interest in his team to his wife, the co-owner, and she began negotiating with the league to sell the club, Reuters reported on Friday, citing sources.

    Chuck Baker, who heads sports mergers and acquisitions as a partner in DLA Piper's Global Sports, Media and Entertainment, said the team could fetch as much as US$1.5 billion (S$1.8 billion).

    But Sterling said in the letter that he had received offers "in excess of US$2.5 billion" for the team, but did not name potential buyers.

    Bank of America has been retained to sell the team, reported Bloomberg, citing two people with direct knowledge of the situation. The sources requested anonymity because the sale process is not public.

    The Clippers, long overshadowed by the more successful Lakers, are a team on the rise. They finished the regular season with the league's third-best record.