In the wake of the NBA’s decision to ban former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life after he was recorded making racist comments during a phone conversation with his mistress, Shelly Sterling was given the unenviable task of facilitating the sale of the franchise. Now, with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially in control of the Clippers, Sterling’s wife has spoken out about how the sale happened.
Shelly Sterling was placed in charge of selling the Clippers in May, shortly after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver decreed that Donald Sterling would be forced to give up the franchise. “I was given the task and I did it,” she told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview. “I just did what I had to do.”
She received several bids from prospective buyers -- including a $1.65 billion offer from media mogul David Geffen -- but Ballmer’s enthusiasm helped him stand out from the rest of the field. “He was like a little child," she said. "He was so excited, so happy. We sort of connected. I felt he would be good for the team.”
After a lengthy process that included a failed attempt by Donald Sterling to legally block the sale, Ballmer’s ownership of the team became official on Aug. 12. He paid $2 billion -- a record amount for an NBA franchise.
“I told him: ‘You won’t have to build an arena or a practice field.’ So he was getting a bargain. And I told him, ‘We have great players, a great coach and you’ll never have the chance to buy a team in Los Angeles again,’” Shelly Sterling said.
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She also addressed her husband’s alleged affair with V. Stiviano, the woman he was speaking with during the leaked phone conversation that resulted in his dismissal from the NBA. Sterling couldn’t say for certain if she was aware of his infidelity.
“I can’t say if I was blind to it or I didn’t know to ask. I was raising my three kids and I was very involved in taking care of the [family’s real estate empire]…. There were always excuses that he was working with one girl or another. Maybe I didn’t want to realize it,” she said.
Shelly Sterling, 79, had her 80-year-old husband removed from the family trust amid concerns regarding his mental state. She said she believes that he suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the tension caused by that action and the forced sale of the Clippers, she said he has been “a little better” as of late.
“Losing the team he loved was very hard on him. I resigned myself to the fact I couldn’t have it. But I’ll always feel it’s our team,” she said.
Still, the sale won’t prevent Shelly Sterling from enjoying some Clippers-related perks. Under the terms of the agreement, she will receive 10 tickets to every Clippers home game, a pair of courtside seats, six parking spaces, 12 VIP passes to luxury areas at the Staples Center and three championship rings in the event of a Clippers’ title run, ESPN reported. In addition, Ballmer will create a charitable foundation with Shelly Sterling at the helm.