Los Angeles (CNN) — A deal to sell the Los Angeles Clippers for an NBA record price can move forward, a California probate judge ruled Monday.
Judge Michael Levanas tentatively ruled in favor of Shelly Sterling, saying the estranged wife of Donald Sterling acted properly in removing her husband from the trust that owns the NBA team and in winding up the affairs of the trust.
The sale can go forward regardless of any appeals, Levanas said.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed with Shelly Sterling to buy the Clippers for a league record $2 billion.
Shelly Sterling was within her rights to remove her husband from the trust under which each Sterling had owned 50% of the team, the judge agreed. She became sole trustee after two doctors determined Donald Sterling was mentally incapacitated.
In April, Donald Sterling came under fire for making racist remarks against African-Americans in comments to his companion V. Stiviano. The recorded conversation was published online.
In response, the NBA banned Sterling for life, fined him the maximum $2.5 million and moved toward terminating the Sterlings’ ownership rights in the franchise.
Donald Sterling, in turn, sued the league for $1 billion for alleged antitrust violations in its handling of the matter.
He also is suing Shelly Sterling, the NBA, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver, seeking monetary damages in civil court. Court documents filed by Sterling’s attorneys call the potential deal “unlawful” and “fraudulent,” and ask for an injunction to block the sale.
Donald Sterling revoked the family trust in June, and the lawsuit contends that the move reverted the Clippers back to his sole ownership and therefore Shelly Sterling has no power or right to sell the team. All the stock for the franchise was issued in his name, court documents said.
Donald Sterling has said he will never sell the Clippers.
The NBA Board of Governors, a group of the league’s 30 owners, will also have to approve the sale for it to go through.