Donald Sterling fails to stop the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise

Court ruling clears the way for former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to buy the NBA team in a proposed $2bn deal

Donald Sterling has lost an effort to halt the $2bn sale of the Los Angeles Clippers in a court ruling which handed victory to his estranged wife Shelly.

The disgraced billionaire on Monday lost all three counts in a probate court trial which questioned his mental fitness to control the National Basketball Association franchise.

Los Angeles superior court judge Michael Levanas tentatively upheld Shelly's authority to sell the team for a record sum to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

She cried and hugged her lawyers after the oral ruling, which included an order that essentially rendered any appeal meaningless, leaving her 80-year-old husband with dwindling legal options in a saga dubbed "quagmire of the vanities".

Levanas found that Shelly, 79, acted properly and correctly in removing Donald as trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers, on grounds of mental incapacitation.

The real estate mogul's erratic behaviour was on display during the trial when he veered from kissing his wife's hand and professing love to shouting "get away from me you pig!"

The judge called his testimony evasive and at times inconsistent and said his wife's testimony was "far and away more credible".

The ruling cleared the way for a $2bn sale, the most ever paid for a basketball team, which Shelly agreed with Ballmer in May.

It was the latest in a series of humiliations for Donald Sterling since the celebrity news site in April posted audio of him denigrating black people, igniting a firestorm of condemnation led by President Barack Obama.

In the recording he told a female friend, V Stiviano, to stop bringing black guests to Clippers games. He also complained that Stiviano posed with Magic Johnson and other black people in photographs posted to her Instagram account. "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people."

The NBA banished him from the sport for life and fined him $2.5m. Donald appeared to apologise in a CNN interview but caused a fresh furore by attacking Magic Johnson.

According to Shelly, his wife of 58 years, the octogenarian agreed she could sell the team they have owned for 33 years but then changed his mind and tried to block the sale to Ballmer, who heavily outbid rival consortiums.

At his wife's behest Donald underwent medical examination. Doctors said he may have Alzheimer's and was incapacitated.

During the trial's closing arguments Donald's lawyer, Max Blecher, accused Shelly of an "unconscionable", "devious" and "invidious" scheme to strip him of the Clippers.

Shelly's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, called than an argument for the media, not the court. "The doctors certified Donald as incapacitated. That's the end of the matter."

The judge agreed.

The NBA said in a brief statement it was pleased. "We look forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible."

NBA Statement Regarding Today's Probate Court Ruling -

— NBA (@NBA) July 28, 2014

Clippers fans expressed relief and joy on social media. "Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty @LAClippers are free at last," said one typical tweet.

Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty @LAClippers are free at last. #Clippers

— Rich Santos (@rich_santos) July 28, 2014


Rory Carroll in Los Angeles

The GuardianTramp

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