Trial over $2 bln Clippers sale waits on federal ruling

Reuters

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles judge on Monday has delayed the start of a probate trial over the $2 billion sale of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers until a federal judge decides in which court the case belongs.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas adjourned until Monday afternoon the trial between Clippers co-owners Donald Sterling and his estranged wife Shelly Sterling while waiting on word from U.S. District Court.

"We're going to wait for them to make a decision, and the parties should be ready to proceed, if it's remanded back," Levanas said, adding that the trial was "teed up and in the batter's box ... I'm not inclined to put this off."

Donald Sterling's attorneys in a last-minute action before the July 4th holiday requested that the trial be moved to federal court because they accuse Shelly Sterling of violating her husband's privacy rights by releasing his medical records.

His attorney, Bobby Samini, told the court that it no longer has jurisdiction over the case.

Shelly Sterling, 79, last month asked Levanas to confirm her as having sole authority to sell the pro basketball franchise to former Microsoft Corp chief executive Steve Ballmer after Donald Sterling vowed to block the NBA-record sale.

Donald Sterling, 80, was banned for life by the NBA in April for racist remarks he made privately that were taped and published during the Clippers' playoff run.

The real estate billionaire's comments imploring a girlfriend not to associate with black people sparked public outrage, caused sponsors to cut ties with the team while players considered a boycott.

Levanas will decide whether Shelly Sterling, who was in attendance at a morning session of the court, acted in accordance with the family trust that owns the Clippers and if Donald Sterling's move to revoke the trust after the deal with Ballmer would invalidate the sale.

Donald Sterling's attorneys say he was misled by his wife into submitting to medical examinations that determined he had early-stage Alzheimer's disease and could not handle business affairs.

The physicians' findings handed sole control of the franchise to Shelly Sterling, according a provision in the family trust.

The sale to Ballmer has been tentatively approved by the league but must be voted on by other team owners. The vote is scheduled for July 15 - the same day Ballmer can back out of the deal if it is not approved.

The NBA has said it could seize the Clippers from the Sterlings and put the franchise up for auction if the deal is not approved by Sept. 15.

Sterling, who has owned the Clippers for 33 years, has also sued the NBA and its commissioner, Adam Silver, for $1 billion in damages.

(Editing by Mary Milliken, Bernard Orr)

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