NBA advisory and finance committee meets Thursday
Sterling sued the NBA in 1984
Oprah Winfrey, David Geffen, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison want to partner to buy team
Other suitors: Magic Johnson, Matt Damon, "Diddy" Combs, Dr. Dre
As new celebrities line up to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, a group of NBA owners will meet by conference call Thursday to talk about what happens next in the uproar surrounding team owner, Donald Sterling.
The 10-member NBA owners’ advisory and finance committee may discuss this question: What will happen if Sterling refuses a league directive to sell the Clippers?
Sterling’s not saying what he’ll do next, but he’s known for being litigious. Calls to his lawyer were not returned.
If he does sell, the billionaire could become richer. The team he bought in 1981 for $12 million is now valued at about $575 million, according to Forbes. CNN’s Rachel Nichols said the selling price could hit $1 billion.
The uproar over Sterling has overshadowed the NBA playoffs – you know, the actual games. The Clippers will play in the NBA playoffs Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors. If the Clippers win, they’ll move into the next round of the playoffs.
Sterling, an 80-year-old lawyer, real estate developer and entrepreneur, won’t be there. On Tuesday, the NBA banned him from the league for life because of racist remarks made during conversations with a young female companion, V Stiviano. The remarks were released on the websites TMZ and Deadspin last weekend.
Specifically, on the audio, Sterling complains that Stiviano posted Instagram photos of herself with black men, including former NBA superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Now, in a bit of turnabout, Johnson has emerged as a potential buyer for the Clippers. Another rumored contender is a partnership between Oprah Winfrey, music-film magnate David Geffen and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.
Others who have expressed interest include boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., ranked by Forbes as one of the highest-paid athletes in the world; former boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya; rapper-producer-entrepreneurs Sean “Diddy” Combs and Dr. Dre; rapper Rick Ross; Rick Caruso, real estate developer and Los Angeles civic leader; and actors Matt Damon, Whoppi Goldberg and Frankie Muniz.
Sterling could be forced to sell his team if three-quarters of the owners of the 30 NBA teams agree, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. He’d like the issue to come before the owners “immediately” but didn’t lay down a timetable.
Sterling could take the league to court.
He’s sued the NBA before and prevailed. When he abruptly moved the team from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984 without league permission, the NBA fined him $25 million, but Sterling countersued. The penalty was sharply reduced and he got to keep the Clippers in Los Angeles. He’s also fought a number of housing discrimination lawsuits filed against him.
Does a lawsuit have a chance?
All the NBA owners signed a waiver saying they would not sue the NBA, sports lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said on CNN’s The Lead, but that may not stop Sterling.
“He might make an argument that if he has an antitrust claim that waiver would not apply,” Kessler said. To make that claim, he’d have to show that something in the process was not competitive, Kessler said.
CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the odds of Sterling winning a case “seem basically zero.”
CNN’s Matt Smith contributed to this article.