By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has agreed to sell the team for $2 billion and will drop his lawsuit against the National Basketball Association, his lawyer Maxwell Blecher said on Wednesday, five weeks after taped racist remarks Sterling made caused the NBA to ban him for life.
Sterling, 80, sued the league and commissioner Adam Silver for at least $1 billion in damages last week at the same time as the NBA tentatively approved a deal his estranged wife had struck to sell the franchise to former Microsoft Corp chief executive Steve Ballmer for an NBA record price of $2 billion.
Sterling, who has owned the Clippers for 33 years, brought shame on the league and delivered the first crisis of Silver’s tenure, which began in February.
Silver banished Sterling and fined him $2.5 million for the comments after the taped racist remarks were leaked to the media in April while the Clippers were playing in the NBA playoffs.
The comments caused sponsors to sever ties with the team and players considered a boycott.
Sterling has said that his remarks to a “lover” about not being photographed with black people or bringing them to Clippers games were a part of a jealous quarrel that was illegally recorded under California law.
Most of the players in the NBA are black.
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Sterling accuses the NBA and Silver of breach of contract, antitrust violations, among others.
The NBA and Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, agreed last week at the time the lawsuit was filed that neither she nor the trust that owns the team would sue the league.
The lawsuit was filed at the same time as the NBA tentatively agreed to the Clippers sale and as part of the deal, wife Shelly Sterling agreed that neither she nor the trust that owns the team would sue the league.
Sterling, who co-owns the team with Shelly Sterling, also listed the Sterling Family Trust as a plaintiff in the suit against the NBA.
As a result of the sale to Ballmer, the league also canceled a hearing scheduled for Tuesday that would have asked NBA owners to terminate Sterling’s ownership.
Shelly Sterling is now sole trustee of the family trust that controls the Clippers after physicians last month deemed that her husband has Alzheimer’s disease.
Blecher at the time said Sterling was diagnosed with a “modest mental impairment.”
NBA owners must still give the Clippers sale final approval.
Ballmer, who retired from the Seattle-based software company in February, outbid two groups for the team, one led by media mogul David Geffen that included Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and TV personality Oprah Winfrey.
(Editing by Sandra Maler)