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Judge: Clippers sale can go forward

By Steve Almasy and Lindy Hall, CNN
updated 8:32 AM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN legal analyst says an appeal is likely to fail
  • Ruling will become final in about 10 days after period for lawyers to file objections
  • Shelly Sterling says she will still be attending games
  • She acted properly in removing Donald Sterling from trust, judge rules

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Shelly Sterling says she can finally get some rest now that it looks like she will be able to sell the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion.

But Donald Sterling's lawyers say this is just one battle in a war their client wants to continue waging.

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It appears, however, they are losing the war to keep the franchise Donald Sterling has owned for more than 30 years.

A California probate judge ruled Monday that a deal to sell the NBA team for a league-record price can move forward.

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.

And Donald Sterling will appeal, his attorneys said.

"His reaction is very calm. He didn't see this as the final battleground. This is one stage of a long war," Bobby Samini said.

The ruling is expected to become final in about 10 days, after Donald Sterling's lawyers are allowed to enter their objections to the judgment.

CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin said it is unlikely that Sterling's lawyers will succeed if they appeal the final ruling. Appellate courts are very reluctant to overturn a probate judge's decision on the facts, she said.

NBA pleased

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed with Shelly Sterling to buy the Clippers for a league record $2 billion.

"We are pleased that the court has affirmed Shelly Sterling's right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer," the NBA said through spokesman Mike Bass. "We look forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible."

Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney for Shelly Sterling, said they hoped to have the sale completed by August 13.

"This is going to be a good thing for the city, for the league, for my family, for all of us," said Shelly Sterling, who added she will still be sitting courtside next season. "And come see the Clippers next year!"

She called Ballmer the "best new owner that anybody could ever find."

She said that she hadn't slept well for two months.

"I'm just glad it's over," she said.

Doctors ruled Donald Sterling was mentally incapacitated

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 in May after two doctors determined Donald Sterling was mentally incapacitated.

In April, Donald Sterling, 80, 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. Samini said they would switch their focus to this case.

Sterling also is suing Shelly Sterling 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.

Donald Sterling bought the Clippers in 1981 for about $12 million and is the longest-tenured owner in the NBA.

Sterling sues wife, NBA and commissioner

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