Shelly Sterling’s bid for part ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers might sounds a bit like déjà vu in Los Angeles, where the estranged wife of former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt made similar claims in 2010.
The National Basketball Association began pressuring Sterling’s husband, Donald Sterling, to sell the team after celebrity website TMZ publicized audio recordings of racist remarks he made to a friend. Now his estranged wife claims she is entitled to half the franchise. She’s retained prominent trial attorney Pierce O’Donnell to negotiate and, if required, bring legal action.
“She’s done nothing wrong,” said O’Donnell, of counsel to Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger in Los Angeles. “The commissioner said that the racist comments were her husband’s and banned him for life. She wants to retain 50 percent ownership interest.”
O’Donnell said he has been in daily talks with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and general counsel Rich Buchanan.
Unlike Jamie McCourt, who fought for control of the Dodgers, O’Donnell said his client wants to remain a “passive owner” of the Clippers. She also wants a new chief executive officer and an investor group to manage the team, he said.
And while Jamie McCourt’s ownership claims were based on a 2004 marital agreement, Shelly Sterling bases her bid on her half-ownership of the couple’s family trust, which owns the Clippers franchise, O’Donnell said. The couple has lived apart for about a year but has not filed for divorce.
One thing both women have in common, however, is their law firm. O’Donnell, a longtime solo practitioner, joined Greenberg Glusker on April 1. Name partner Bertram Fields represented Jamie McCourt in her legal actions over the Dodgers.
O’Donnell said his client is prepared to fight in court. “She’s keeping her options open, and she will litigate, if she has to, to protect her valuable property rights,” he said.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at firstname.lastname@example.org.