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24.07.2018 10:34
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LOS ANGELES -- A trial will be held next month to determine whether Donald Sterling, who opposes his estranged wifes planned sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, was properly removed as an administrator for the family trust that owns the team. A probate court judge in Los Angeles Wednesday denied Shelly Sterlings urgent request to confirm her authority as sole administrator of The Sterling Family Trust so that she can unilaterally proceed with a $2 billion sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Instead, the judge agreed to an expedited hearing because of looming sales deadlines. The development is the latest in a legal tug-of-war following the NBAs decision to ban Donald Sterling for life after racist remarks to a girlfriend were recorded and publicized. Donald Sterling is fighting the decision and suing the league for $1 billion. The league has contended the comments were bad for business and damaged both the Clippers and the NBA. The four-day trial was granted exceptionally quickly and will begin July 7. The deadline for the sale is July 15, which also is the date the NBAs owners hope to vote on whether they will approve the sale. Court filings Wednesday indicated the NBA has set a hard deadline of Sept. 15. If the sale isnt completed then, the league will undertake proceedings to seize and sell the team on its own. Donald Sterlings lawyer, Bobby Samini, left the courthouse without comment after a clerk announced the trial schedule. Neither Sterling was present. "I just want to resolve this as quickly as possible," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told The Associated Press on Wednesday in Miami at an NBA Cares event. The crux of the case will centre on the question of whether the 80-year-old Donald Sterling is mentally competent to be a co-trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which gives him the authority to determine the teams future. According to the trusts terms, he can be ruled "mentally incapacitated" after being evaluated by two doctors, said Pierce ODonnell, Shelly Sterlings attorney. Shelly Sterling activated that clause in negotiating what would be a record-breaking deal with Ballmer as sole trustee. But Donald Sterling challenged the removal in a letter sent Monday to his wifes attorney said "any attempt to remove me as a Trustee of the Sterling Trust is invalid and illegal. Furthermore, any assertion that I am incapacitated... is false and without merit." According to court documents, two doctors examined Donald Sterling in May and concluded that he suffers from "mild cognitive impairment consistent with early Alzheimers Disease" or some other forms of brain disease after examining brain scans and having him undergo other tests. "In my opinion he is substantially unable to manage his finances and resist fraud and undue influence, and is no longer competent to act as trustee of his trust," concluded Dr. James E. Spar, who is affiliated with the division of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA. Sterling voluntarily went to the doctors at the request of his wife, according to a person with knowledge of the proceedings who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details publicly. A third doctor reviewed the two doctors findings as well as Sterlings brain scans and concurred with their conclusions that he "lacks the capacity to function as trustee." Donald Sterlings attorney, Maxwell Blecher, contested the doctors findings in remarks Tuesday to The Associated Press. "Anybody at his age level on a brain scan would probably show some impairment. But that doesnt mean you forget where your car keys are and youre incompetent," Blecher said. "There isnt the slightest evidence hes incapable of managing his affairs." Donald Sterling said in a statement that hes not just fighting for the Clippers but taking a stand against the NBA, which he called "a band of hypocrites and bullies" and "despicable monsters" who want "to take away our privacy rights and freedom of speech." "As Ive said previously, if Donald chooses to litigate against us, so be it," Silver said. "So its going to take longer than we had hoped for this transaction to close, but itll get done ultimately. Its just a question of time." Ballmers attorney, Adam Streisand, said he was pleased with the trial schedule and "confident that after the trial the court is going to bless this transaction." The NBAs general counsel, Rick Buchanan, warned in a court papers that if the judge didnt confirm Shelly Sterlings sole trusteeship and if her deal with Ballmer "is not promptly consummated, there will be substantial harm" to the Clippers, the NBA and even The Sterling Family Trust -- the last of which would be responsible for the NBAs costs related to the legal proceedings that result. Buchanan said a recent independent survey of more than 500 Clippers fans found the majority would be less likely to support the team if Donald Sterling remained its owner. Buchanan said thousands of NBA fans worldwide have contacted the league directly or via social media to say theyre hurt or embarrassed by his views and arent sure theyll continue supporting the league and its teams. He also cited NBA player worries about the impact for the team with the upcoming NBA draft. "Mr. Sterlings continued ownership is damaging the Clippers and NBAs relationships with existing and potential business partners and licenses," Buchanan wrote. He said nearly all of the Clippers local sponsors have terminated or suspended their relationships with the team, including Adidas, Commerce Casino and Hotel, Red Bull, Mandalay Bay Hotel, Virgin America and Mercedes. Shelly Sterlings court bid aims to have a judge confirm her authority as sole trustee to ensure the Ballmer sale moves forward. Blecher said that a representative for Donald Sterling would be at any hearing, and that the next step is to have other doctors evaluate Donald Sterling. "I have no doubt at the end of the day the court is not going to say hes incompetent," Blecher said. "Thats a very high burden in the probate court -- otherwise people would get their sisters and wife and brother-in-laws and everybody declared incompetent." ------ AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report. 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Completing the sale will have an immediate effect on the on-ice product, at least in one respect. The move cleared the way for the team to complete the signing of two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender who took last season off before deciding that he wanted to return. The Panthers announced Thursday evening that Thomas signed a one-year deal. Thomas has been with the Panthers on a tryout deal, and it was believed that the team was waiting for the ownership change to be completed before wrapping up his signing. "Tim is a proven winner who we are pleased to have signed," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "He is a fierce competitor who brings to our club a wealth of experience including a Stanley Cup Championship, two Vezina ttrophies and a Conn Smythe.dddddddddddd. He is a hardworking, driven and dedicated individual who will help our club achieve future success." Viola will replace Cliff Viner, a longtime Panthers fan who became a co-general partner of the team in 2009 and took over as general partner, chairman and CEO the following year. "I know the parties are working very hard on a transaction and theyre going to try to consummate it as quickly as possible," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this week. Viola is the chairman and CEO of Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm with offices in the U.S., Singapore and Ireland. Hes buying a franchise that has been to the playoffs only once since 2000 and finished with the fewest points in the NHL last season. Viola graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1977, was a major in the U.S. Army Reserves and is a graduate of New York Law School. Hes also long been involved with philanthropic projects and is a past winner of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2003, he founded and helped fund the creation of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. 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