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Basketball: Court rejects Sterling's bid to halt Clippers sale

Donald Sterling's attempt to block proposed US$2 billion sale of Los Angeles Clippers to ex-Microsoft tycoon Steve Ballmer has been rejected by an appeals court.

LOS ANGELES: An appeals court denied late Friday (Aug 9) a request from embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to halt the proposed US$2 billion (S$2.5 billion) sale of the NBA team to ex-Microsoft tycoon Steve Ballmer.

Sterling's lawyers filed a petition with the California appellate court requesting an immediate order blocking the sale. Sterling's lawyers are seeking to block Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas' ruling last month that allowed his estranged wife Shelly Sterling to go ahead with the sale to Ballmer. The court rejected the request, saying that Levanas' ruling had not yet been finalized. "There is nothing for this court to review," the appeal court said.

Sterling's appeal contended that allowing the sale to take place would mean the loss of a "unique and irretrievable asset ... one of 30 NBA franchises" for Sterling.

Sterling, who made his fortune in real estate, has been under pressure to sell the team since the release of a tape between him and his girlfriend V. Stiviano. In the recording, Sterling criticizes the much younger Stiviano for having her picture taken with black people and tells her not to bring them to Clippers games.

Soon after the comments became public, the NBA slapped the 80-year-old owner with a lifetime ban from the league and began the process of stripping Sterling of ownership of the club he bought in 1981 for US$12.5 million. The league put that on hold pending a decision on Shelly Sterling's ability to sell the franchise.

Following weeks of testimony in a trial, Levanas ruled July 28 that Shelly Sterling had acted properly in removing Donald Sterling as a trustee of the family trust that owns the team. The move came after two specialists examined Donald Sterling and deemed him to be mentally incapacitated. Sterling contended he had been hoodwinked by his wife into submitting to the tests as part of a plot to sell the team behind his back.

Sterling has also filed a separate lawsuit challenging Shelly Sterling's right to sell the team based on corporate law. He has another civil rights lawsuit pending in American federal court against the NBA, claiming he was being pushed out of the league in violation of his rights.