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Donald Sterling Makes the Same Mistake Twice: Trusting a Woman Who Would Sleep with Him
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From the NY Times:

Plan B Eased Clippers Deal: Sterling’s Diagnosis

Donald Sterling’s Impairment Expedited the Clippers’ Sale to Steve Ballmer


LOS ANGELES — At 7 on a Saturday morning, four weeks after her life had erupted in scandal, Rochelle Sterling was awakened by a ringing phone.

The voice at the other end was a high-energy buzz. But the man, a stranger, made it clear that he wanted to bid on the Los Angeles Clippers, the basketball team she owned with her estranged husband, Donald Sterling. The man on the phone offered to fly from Seattle to speak with her that afternoon.

Mrs. Sterling agreed to meet him the next day. Then she hung up and went back to bed.

When she got up later that morning, the conversation was fuzzy. She called a friend and asked, “Who is this man Bomber from Washington?”

Judging from this anecdote, the 80-year-old Shelley Sterling, who is not getting any younger, sounds a little gaga. (You’ll see later why this isn’t a gratuitous jibe, but could be at the heart of her husband Donald’s current plan to sue to block the sale of his team.)

The friend explained that his name was Ballmer, Steve Ballmer, and that he used to run Microsoft.

Five days later, Mrs. Sterling had an agreement to sell the Clippers to Mr. Ballmer for a record-setting $2 billion. The deal allowed her to remain involved as “owner emeritus.” With the title, she gets two floor seats for all home games and five stadium parking spaces, according to people involved in the negotiations.

And if the Clippers win their first N.B.A. title, three championship rings will go to Mrs. Sterling.

There was just one big problem that threatened the deal: Donald Sterling. As a co-owner of the team, he had to be persuaded to sell.

This account of the last-minute negotiations behind the sale, much of which has not been previously disclosed, was assembled from nearly a dozen interviews with people involved in the deal on various sides. Because the sale has not been finalized, many of the people spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The hurried negotiations took place against the backdrop of the Sterlings’ deeply strained marriage and involved some of the wealthiest people in Los Angeles jostling for a coveted property from their perches in private jets, Malibu mansions and Ritz-Carlton penthouse suites. And while Mr. Sterling had long been seen as the principal actor in the Clippers’ saga, he was reduced to a bit player in the deal’s final stages. It was Rochelle Sterling, his wife of 58 years, who emerged from the billion-dollar negotiating table with the terms she wanted.

On May 29, the day Mrs. Sterling and Mr. Ballmer agreed in principle on the deal, Mrs. Sterling and her advisers gathered in a conference room at the law offices of Greenberg Glusker in Los Angeles. Mr. Sterling was on speakerphone. He told the room that he refused to sell — at any price — and vowed to fight the N.B.A., which had barred him for life for making racist statements on recordings, according to participants in the negotiations.

With little else to say, Mr. Sterling hung up. Pierce O’Donnell, Mrs. Sterling’s lawyer, turned to a roomful of lawyers, investment bankers and financial advisers and said, “Time to go to Plan B,” according to advisers who were in the room.

It was a reference to a provision in the trust that controlled the Clippers that stipulated that if Mr. or Mrs. Sterling was found to have a cognitive impairment, the other had a fiduciary responsibility to become sole trustee.

What if they are both found to have cognitive impairment? Has the octogenarian Mrs. Sterling been tested?

That legal maneuver, so closely held that some of Mrs. Sterling’s advisers were unaware it existed, capped a hectic, weekslong effort to wrest control of the team from Mr. Sterling.

N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver publicly discussed the tactic that cut Mr. Sterling out of the trust.

“It’s not necessary that he sign the trust agreement because Shelly went through this process outlined in the trust,” Mr. Silver said during a news conference Sunday night. “Donald was found incapacitated and unable to sign on his own behalf.”

Mr. Sterling and his lawyer declined requests for an interview.

Mrs. Sterling has maintained that she was unaware of the provision until late in the process, according to her advisers. But on May 13, the day after she watched her husband give a rambling interview to Anderson Cooper of CNN, she called Mr. Sterling and urged him to undergo neurological testing, according to people with knowledge of the conversation. She told friends that she was motivated by concern for her husband.

Mr. Sterling agreed to an appointment for that Friday, May 16, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Donny, my boy, you are losing a step. Haven’t you learned by now that the women in your life don’t have your best interests at heart?

Mr. O’Donnell, her lawyer, was well aware of the legal ramifications of the hospital visit, according to participants in the negotiations. Medical documentation of Mr. Sterling’s condition could allow Mrs. Sterling to take control of the trust. This was “Plan B.” …

Was Mr. Sterling apprised of the purpose of Mrs. Sterling recommending his visit to the doctor?

At his wife’s urging, Mr. Sterling had visited doctors for neurological exams.

Or is Shelley’s legal argument that if her husband’s memory wasn’t impaired, he would have remembered that clause in the the trust agreement and realized what kind of shenanigans she was up to?

The doctors’ conclusions were clear, according to participants who have reviewed the records: A neurologist affiliated with U.C.L.A. Medical Center and another from the San Fernando Valley found Mr. Sterling to be affected by cognitive impairment.

How much “affected by cognitive impairment?” Practically everybody in their 80s is affected somewhat relative to their primes. It’s a relative thing. Philip Roth’s last few novels haven’t been as good as American Pastoral. John Updike gleefully charted his own decline from his late 40s peak in Rabbit Is Rich. Bertrand Russell had witty things to say in his 90s about the impairment of his cognition.

It would be interesting to see if Hillary Clinton is at all “affected by cognitive impairment” since her unfortunate brain trauma (that she took six months to recover from, according to Bill Clinton, whose attitude toward his spouse seems as complicated as Shelley’s toward Donald).

Presumably there str some legal understandings surrounding these non-novel issues, but this article sure doesn’t explain why this isn’t just the legalistic larceny it sounds like.

I guess you could argue that when a billionaire gets suckered twice in a row by women that proves he must be suffering from cognitive impairment, but that’s a little too nature red in tooth and claw of a legal standard, isn’t it? I mean, does the law really say that you can be legally tricked out of anything you aren’t clever enough anymore to avoid being tricked out of? Perhaps …

From the perspective of her legal team, that documentation was the weapon they needed to strip the team from Mr. Sterling. (He will still get his share of proceeds from the sale.)

Obviously, Mr. Sterling would be ill-advised to try to wait for a Greater Fool than Steve Ballmer to come along.

Mr. O’Donnell faxed papers, along with the doctors’ reports, to Mr. Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell M. Blecher, that informed him that Mrs. Sterling was now the sole trustee, according to people briefed on the negotiations.

Mr. Blecher has since contested Mr. O’Donnell’s characterization of the doctors’ reports, telling CNN that Mr. Sterling was affected by only a mild “slowing down.”

He’s suffering from Elderly Fool Syndrome.

At 6 that evening, Mr. O’Donnell informed Mr. Ballmer of Plan B: Mrs. Sterling was the sole trustee and did not need Mr. Sterling’s blessing. Mr. Ballmer was unaware that the maneuver had been even a possibility until then, according to a person who advised him on the bid process.

Ballmer was unaware? Heck, I’d heard of the possibility of this ploy. Perhaps Ballmer is suffering from cognitive impairment? That might explain Windows Vista …

Mr. O’Donnell then called Richard Buchanan, the N.B.A.’s general counsel. Mr. Buchanan and other league officials had reviewed the doctors’ reports, according to people briefed on the negotiations. With Mrs. Sterling agreeing to indemnify the league against a potential lawsuit by her husband, Mr. Buchanan said he would recommend that the N.B.A.’s executive committee accept her new role in the trust as well as the sale agreement between Mr. Ballmer and Mrs. Sterling, those people said.

The transaction is still not complete. Mr. Sterling could challenge his wife’s assertion that she is the sole trustee.

Back on May 1, in “The Sterling Tape: Illegal or Senile?” I pointed out that Stiviano’s tape recordings were prima facie illegal under California’s two-party consent law:

Now, V. Stiviano is trying to get around this heap of trouble by saying the octogenarian Donald T. Stirling gave her some sort of blanket permission to record him, apparently because he has a bad memory. From TMZ:

As for why Stiviano taped so many conversations … as TMZ Sports reported, she told friends the Clippers owner WANTED her to record him and he knew he was being recorded … partly because he frequently forgot what he said and the tapes refreshed his memory … at least that’s her story.


A. Either the tape everybody in the world is so outraged about was illegal


B. The tape was legally recorded because the octogenarian gave permission because he is going senile, and thus the whole planet is up in arms over what a senile man was coached into saying (which is pretty embarrassing for humanity. When’s the ship leaving for that Earth-like planet they just discovered? I think I want to be on it).

Pick one.

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  1. I smell Lajers and Buss. Ballmer moves the team to Seattle, Kakers have ni Clippers competition as the team sucks with Kobes boat anchor contract and salary cap. Notice coaches are not exactly clamoring to work for theLakers.

  2. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Plot twist:

    Donald Sterling ears perked up upon hearing of Ballmer’s $2 billion offer. Nice money and the sale wasn’t to a local rival or Magic Johnson. Upon careful consideration of his (long?) legal odds at contesting the compulsory divestiture of the Clippers, Sterling agreed to this ‘mental impairment’ finding as an easy exit and a way to save face. His lawyers, naturally, would’ve otherwise never agreed to him undergoing a cognitive evaluation.

    His current legal wrangling (or threats thereof) are merely efforts to connive one last concession out of the league (co-owner emeritus status, box-seat season tickets, or championship rings?). No longer about money, but emotional intangibles— power/vanity/pride.

  3. What’s a decent P/E for a basketball team, 15 times earnings? 20 times earnings?

    Is there any way in hell the Clippers are netting $100-135 million/year?

    The best I can think of is that maybe the NBA will get even bigger globally than it already is. Of big-time American sports, basketball certainly travels better than baseball or football.

  4. To finish my comment….It seems unlikely that Sterling can get more than $2 billion from the Clippers. It’s $400 million and $800 million more than the other two offers.

    If he still actually has his mental faculties, I suspect he’s mostly trying to get more money by hoping the NBA will pay him extra money to disappear – maybe at least give him his $2.5 million back. The franchise agreement almost certainly includes provisions to force him out for what he said, but it seems ridiculous that they somehow could bar him from even negotiating the sale of his team.

  5. “When’s the ship leaving for that Earth-like planet they just discovered? I think I want to be on it.”

    Learn Russian or Chinese. If anyone is colonizing, it will be them. Obama’s apparently decided America doesn’t need NASA or a launch vehicle.

    I vaguely recall reading an article in Scientific American announcing that Obama would be a better president for science than would McCain. Sounds kind of laughable now, doesn’t it? The man probably can’t even do basic trig, and probably hasn’t picked up a science book since high school.

  6. all is fair in love and basketball

  7. “I vaguely recall reading an article in Scientific American announcing that Obama would be a better president for science than would McCain. Sounds kind of laughable now, doesn’t it?”

    Sure, but I’ll take the better president for Not Blowing Up the World.

  8. I think the combo of Anon at 4:02pm and Steve have it nailed. Sterling will sell at the bubble top after he negotiates again w/ the NBA to allow him entry to games & avoiding the $2.5M fine. Silver gets to keep looking like a hero (when in fact he’s a hustler) and Sterling saves some face and the money. Sterling didn’t get to where he is by leaving $2.5M on the table for the a punk like Silver.

    In the end, Sterling’s a fool, but not a $2Bn fool. That offer is insane, but if “Bomber” is willing to pony up the dough, then you’d be a fool to not take it.

  9. Had mr.sterling said “don’t bring aids people to my game!” What then? I think a lot of us can openly express our fear and discomfort with aids. I’m sure the uproar from the aids/gay community would have been heard but the common nba fan is not gay. And their are many people don’t like gay people and don’t think they have to.
    Now I don’t think anyone watching the nba is a “racistismist” because thoose fans spend hundreds of hours worshipping athletic African Americans. I don’t ever recall a nba fan judging a player on his race. Of course I have seen them relish in a player or two in a brief moment of white pride . A moment you would be hard pressed to find in a league made up of 80% black players and over 35% Jewish owned. We all know saying “black power” is acceptable even in the work place. While saying “white power” at home on an illegal recording is highly likely to get you fired. WeStever’s know all to well that Jewish pride out weighs American pride in many American Jews. And I my self know of an American woman born and raised who is currently serving in The Isreali army to preserve her dual citizenship, she had never nor will she ever serve in the us military.
    And what of mr.sterlings “in isreal blacks are treated worse then dogs” statement. Why was that over looked . It sounds as if we failed to understand that mr.sterling is expressing a cultural view that although we can’t fathom (when have you ever wish some place you went would be free of black guys with aids?) is, as odd as it may seem, common practice in his homeland. I respect cultural diversity. WeStever’s know , It is our greatest strength.
    I may have definitely gone slightly off topic….
    I guess what I’m trying to say is “behind every terrible man is an even terrible’er woman or two. ” and for that shame on him, and in regards to the women involved bilaterally , in our pro women, pro black, pro gay, pro anti straight white men fashion …. “you go girl(s)!”

  10. So proven-impaired Donald and not-yet-proven-impaired Shelley each garner about a billion dollars from this forced sale to Bomber from Seattle.

    It seems to me that Milken, Magic, Oprah, and the other Guggenheim investors are the real victims here. Hypothetically, consider all the effort that would have been involved in calibrating V. Stiviano’s ambush. So much spadework, and in the end, the promise of fire-sale pricing comes to naught.

    A modest proposal: the Sterlings should pool their excess profits and use them to endow the Los Angeles NAACP chapter’s Lifetime Achievement Award. If the “fair” value of the Clippers is set at $1.2 billion, that’s an endowment of $800 million. Disbursing 5% each year, the annual prize money will be $40 million.

    Obviously, Miss Stiviano will be the first honoree.

  11. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I think the husband took the fall. A wife can’t just sell the husband’s stuff by saying he’s incapacitated, with a contract or without a contract, if he has a lawyer. They must know the the husband won’t go the court to prove his competency or the deal wouldn’t go through. This way the husband gets his share of $2B without going back on his word that he’d never sell.

  12. The point of basketball is to make NFL seem interesting by contrast.

  13. If Stiviano’s tape is regarded as sufficient cause to take Sterling’s team away from him, shouldn’t all NBA owners be obligated to have their homes and telephones bugged and recorded so that we can see if they ever say anything racist? Otherwise it seems totally unfair. In fact, perhaps Ta-Nehisi Coates should write another column for the Atlantic suggesting that all whites should be monitored at all times to determine whether they ever say anything objectionable. Then we could get them fired and give their job to a person of color. This would help with income inequality.

  14. Roger Conley above has it right— this is a way for the husband to say he never gave in willingly. He can easily find a doctor or a dozen doctors to say he’s not senile, but then say since the sale is a done deal he’ll grudgingly accept it.

    The legal details are interesting. Suppose this senility claim is bogus, as seems likely, but the deal goes through without the husband’s signature, as also seems likely. If he then sues and wins, what happens? Does the deal get undone, so he has the Clippers again, or does he just get money damages— which are zero, since they’ll give him his share of the money anyway?

    In property disputes, the usual solution is to get possession of the specific property. In contract disputes and tort disputes, the usual solution is to get money damages. This is a mixture of things, which is what makes it interesting. I’ll bring it up at our weekly law-and-economics lunch.

    As for Miss Stiviano: if the husband is senile, then I doubt his consent to being taped is valid— she’d have to get permission from his guardian. But suppose he was senile at the time, and she should have known it (knowing him so well), but he hadn’t been officially declared gaga?

  15. My analysis:

    Sterling’s divorce: fake, a legal maneuver to dodge a forced sale.

    Sterling’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis – fake, playing to the jury’s sympathy.

    Sterling’s agreement last week with the NBA – fake, a maneuver that got the NBA to admit that their charges against Sterling were not serious. (If the charges were serious, the NBA would have righteously demanded some kind of punishment for the crime. A sale for $2 billion is not a punishment.) The NBA has made it look like their real motive was to get Sterling to sell, and they have aroused suspicion that they may have been working with a potential buyer to force a sale.

    Sterling’s lawsuit against the NBA now – a move that Sterling thinks will net him some real money.

    I say that Sterling is showing everyone how an A-Team manipulator works the system. The fake agreement move is a hardball negotiating tactic used by skilled players.

  16. Wouldn’t Sterling’s diagnosis and medical records generally have been confidential and also protected by physician-patient privilege?

    If so, it is possible either that someone leaked them illegally or that Sterling is in on this whole arrangement.

  17. …Mr. Sterling had visited doctors for neurological exams.

    IOW, he went to have his head examined. Overdue, I would say.

    …A neurologist affiliated with U.C.L.A. Medical Center and another from the San Fernando Valley found Mr. Sterling to be affected by cognitive impairment.

    How many men Sterling’s age aren’t?

  18. So Donald Sterling is competent enough to provide housing for wealthy Koreans in LA but not competent enough to be figure head of the Clippers? Would the world be a better place if either Sterling got hold of 2 billion dollars before taxes? WTF would they do with the cash if they are both incompetent? And why isn’t Ballmer spending the billions on say solving important world problems, like providing housing for wealthy Koreans in LA? Maybe Ballmer is the one who lacks competence?

  19. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Something doesn’t add up here. Even if his wife tricked Sterling into getting a medical exam, the results of the exam would normally be confidential medical records protected by doctor-patient privilege. Now if someone is competent to manage his own affairs, he can consent to the release of his medical records to third parties (his wife, the trust’s lawyers, the entire world). But they are saying that Sterling is NOT competent, so this is a Catch-22 situation, literally.

    The only way this could have worked legally is if they had Sterling declared incompetent in a court and had a guardian appointed for him who could give consent to the release of records on his behalf (assuming that the guardian found that it was in his best interest – hard to see how that would be true) , but NONE of the shenanigans that have gone on up until now, right from the very beginning, have been examined in a real court with real due process protections and I doubt that they will be able to withstand that kind of scrutiny.

    In that sense, Sterling is a lot like the college boys who have been tried for “rape” ( in its new meaning of having drunken sex) by kangaroo college tribunals (except a lot richer and more able to pay legal fees).

    I predict that once all of this gets before a REAL court with real rules of evidence concerning what is and is not admissible (NOT = illegally taped phone calls, medical releases obtained by trickery, etc.), Sterling will do a lot better than he did in front of the NBA and the “court” (mob) of public opinion.

  20. If she was able to take Steve Ballmer for two BILLION dollars, for the Clippers no less, that would seem to be strong evidence that she’s not gaga.

  21. Gato de la Biblioteca [AKA "Icepick"] says: • Website

    I’m just happy that NBA Armageddon is back on! I really really REALLY want the owners to all get deposed to discover if any of them have ever said anything derogatory about any non-white males. And I believe that various NBA owners are connected to the other three big US sports leagues, too, so maybe we can get all them deposed, too, by way of contrast. This can STILL be the most awesome sports story ever! Do not go gentle into that good night, Donald!

  22. Clearly he’s not impaired to the point of being unable to look after his interests, which is the only validity upon which such a provision can rest–indeed, it’s only his refusal to surrender his interests that prompted the maneuver. It’s amazing what people are allowed to get away with once they’ve branded someone a “racist.” We don’t quite live in a nation of laws anymore.

    I can hear that sinister voice:
    “There is a little-known codicil in the Faber constitution…”

  23. I smell Lajers and Buss. Ballmer moves the team to Seattle, Kakers have ni Clippers competition as the team sucks with Kobes boat anchor contract and salary cap. Notice coaches are not exactly clamoring to work for theLakers.

    What do a basketball team and a dead guy smell like, Mr Fat Finger? Can’t be pleasant. Jerry Buss died over a year ago.
    Young people: crunk and commenting don’t mix.

  24. Oh, I see he meant the younger Buss. I’m a dick.


    Another Liberal Jewish guy done in by black ho. The story of Strauss-Kahn.

    I guess the Duke LaCrosse black ho was too dumb to pull it off right.

  26. OT, but where have the commenters gone? isteve.blogspot articles averaged ten times as many comments!

  27. And the point of NFL is to make baseball seem interesting.

  28. Is this Sailer, Tomassi, Dalrock ?


    “Quite a lot of commentary this year has focused on the wider economic implications of higher student loan debt, mainly the stifling of household formation growth and reduced consumer spending.”


    “Dora Gicheva suggests that each $10,000 in additional student debt decreases the borrower’s long-term probability of marriage by 7 percentage points.”

    Dalrock ?

    “Over the same period, the share of borrowers who reported that they delayed having children due to student loans jumped from 12 percent to 21 percent (Baum and O’Malley 2003).”

    Sailer again. It’s affordable family formation, not affordable household formation.

  29. OT: Some institute in South Africa blames affirmative action for Real Stuff:

    South Africa, showing the effects of AA most starkly (no 20% white blood, no sea of whites or other highly educated and / or able to mitigate it).

  30. “since her unfortunate brain trauma (that she took six months to recover from) ”

    Six days, six months — what difference does it make?

  31. What if the wife used the mistress to game her husband? 2 billion is worth some conniving.

  32. Oh man, am I glad Donald didn’t go softly into the night. Too fun a story for it to end so anti-climacticly. Donald needs better legal counsel though. Max Blecher is 83 years old or so. Are we sure he isn’t suffering cognitive impairment?

  33. Ballmer’s $2 billion bid shows that for a lot of rich guys, purchasing an NBA team is more about purchasing a lifestyle/conspicuous consumption than it is a business decision.

    Ballmer is retired from Microsoft. He wants to be an NBA-owning hotshot. Maybe he wants to get divorced and get the bedroom action that being a highly visible team-owner brings. Here’s his chance, and he can do it in a huge market like L.A. rather than in Seattle.

  34. >> Maybe he wants to get divorced and get the bedroom action that being a highly visible team-owner brings.

    I’m just a late-40’s middle class schlub…. and I’m getting the hot Filipina & Thai young-20’s chicks – ok, it’s only their cousins who haven’t yet left Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood.

    I’m just a late-40’s middle class schlub…. and I’m getting the hot African young-20’s chicks – ok, it’s only the Ethiopian college girls at the Junior College in Afula.

    I’m just a late-40’s middle-class schlub….. and I’m getting the hot Hispanic young-20’s chicks – ok, it’s only the recent Spain-Jew immigrant chicks who wanted to bail out of Madrid’s dead employment market.

    Ballmer wants an “prestigious” catch like Bar Rafaeli (she just flew to LA a few days ago after getting dumped by her local boyfriend for dancing TOO dirty with Mick Jagger at the after-party from the Stones concert in Hertzliya) ?

    Ok…. he can have her. She’s 29, she no longer gets work for “fashion” shots; the soft-core “artistic-nude” porn shots are starting to get thin on the ground; only visible market left for anywhere is a few months run in hardcore.

    Unless she can tie down some beta-ish older wealthy guy who has a habit of over-paying for things.

  35. Of big-time American sports, basketball certainly travels better than baseball or football.

    And is never called for it by the refs!

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