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Steve Ballmer Gets Court OK to Purchase Clippers

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on August 13, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is now the official owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

National Basketball Association owners unanimously voted to approve the team's sale to Ballmer last week. However, the sale couldn't be completed until a California court confirmed that Shelly Sterling, wife of former owner Donald Sterling, had the authority to sell the team without her husband's consent, reports ESPN. On Tuesday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued an order finalizing an earlier ruling that allowing the sale.

How did Ballmer's $2 billion purchase of the Clippers end up hinging on a court order?

Former Owner Donald Sterling Banned for Life

Although the Clippers former owner, billionaire Donald Sterling has a long history of objectionable behavior, his ultimate downfall came earlier this year, when racist statements made by Sterling in a conversation with his alleged mistress were made public.

NBA owners subsequently voted to ban Donald Sterling from the league for life. Despite the ban, however, Sterling remained the team's owner, through the family trust controlled by him and his wife Shelly.

Sale Allowed After Donald Sterling Found "Impaired"

Following the league's lifetime ban on Donald Sterling, Shelly Sterling brought suit to have him declared mentally incompetent, allowing her to assume the role of sole trustee of the trust and sell the team to Ballmer.

As part of the suit, two neurologists found that Sterling was suffering from cognitive impairment consistent with Alzheimer's disease. After a contentious court battle -- which included alleged threats made by Donald Sterling to Shelly Sterling that he would "take her out" -- a California judge ruled that Sterling could be removed as trustee, allowing the sale to proceed.

Although Sterling was removed as trustee, he will still be entitled to his share of the proceeds from the team's sale.

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