A judge ruled against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling Monday and cleared the way for the $2 billion sale of the team to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Judge Michael Levanas sided Monday with Sterling's estranged wife in the case that arose after the 80-year-old billionaire was banned by the NBA for making offensive remarks about blacks.
The ruling Monday was tentative until the judge files it in writing.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement that the league was pleased and looked forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible.
Shelly Sterling had sought the court's approval for the deal she negotiated after taking control of a family trust and removing her husband as a trustee after two doctors found he had Alzheimer's disease and couldn't manage his affairs.
Donald Sterling claimed his wife deceived him about the medical exams.
The judge said Shelly Sterling had negotiated a good deal and the removal of her husband as a co-trustee was in good faith and not part of a secret plan to seize the team.
Sterling has vowed to fight the NBA until his death and is expected to continue to wage court battles to stop the sale.
An unusual provision of the ruling bars Donald Sterling from seeking a court-ordered delay of the sale as he appeals. His lawyers plan to seek permission from an appellate court to file an appeal.
At the conclusion of his lengthy ruling, Levanas envisioned what might happen if Donald Sterling remained the owner.
Citing testimony of Clippers interim CEO Richard Parsons, he said the team would go into a "death spiral." Sponsors would withdraw, players would quit and coach Doc Rivers would leave.
"The Clippers would suffer a massive loss of value if the team survived at all," Levanas said.
The judge was adamant that a team owned by Donald Sterling would not draw a price anywhere near the "stunning" $2 billion pledged by Ballmer. Sterling, a lawyer who made a fortune as a landlord, bought the team in 1981 for $12 million.
"Ballmer paid an amazing price that can't be explained by the market," he said.
The Associated Press