LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The mental capacity of Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling will not be part of an upcoming probate trial over whether his estranged wife had the authority to sell the NBA team, a judge said on Monday, averting a battle over Sterling’s mental fitness.
The four-day trial, which is set to start on July 7, will focus on whether Shelly Sterling properly installed herself as sole controlling trustee of the family trust that owns the Clippers after two physicians deemed her 80-year-old husband mentally incapable to handle business.
Sterling, whose attorneys have argued he was misled into submitting to mental examinations in May, has vowed to block the NBA-record $2 billion sale brokered by his wife to former Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.
“We are going to argue their examinations were by way of undue influence,” Sterling’s attorney, Bobby Samini, said outside court. “Their examinations were not complete.”
Sterling, who has owned the Clippers for 33 years, was banned for life by the National Basketball Association in April and fined $2.5 million after privately taped racist remarks were leaked to celebrity website TMZ.com.
Attorneys for both parties also agreed that Donald Sterling revoked the family trust following the sale to Ballmer. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas will rule on how that could affect any sale of the Clippers.
Sterling’s attorneys had been prepared to have a physician testify that Sterling was mentally capable, but Levanas would not agree to delay the trial for the expert witness’ testimony.
“The trust is obligated, whether revoked or not, to consummate the deal,” said Shelly Sterling’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell.
Shelly Sterling petitioned the probate court to confirm her as the trust’s controlling trustee in time for the NBA owner’s July 15 vote to approve the sale to Ballmer.
Sterling has also sued the NBA and its commissioner, Adam Silver, for $1 billion in damages.
(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Peter Cooney)