Source: Shelly Sterling 'Moving Quickly' To Sell Los Angeles Clippers

By: Brian Todd, Wolf Blitzer and Greg Botelho
By: Brian Todd, Wolf Blitzer and Greg Botelho
Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling is "moving quickly" to sell the embattled NBA franchise, with a source familiar with the situation saying she and her representatives would like to make a deal this week.

File photo courtesy REUTERS / Danny Moloshok

(CNN) -- Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling is "moving quickly" to sell the embattled NBA franchise, with a source familiar with the situation saying she and her representatives would like to make a deal this week.

The recent activity includes talks with several high-profile potential suitors for the team, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is "very much involved" in Shelly Sterling's dealings with potential buyers, according to the source.

But as bidders make their pitches for his team, Donald Sterling -- Shelly's estranged husband and the team's other owner -- accused the NBA of violating his constitutional rights in trying to end his ownership of the franchise based on what he says was an illegally recorded conversation during a lovers' quarrel, according to a document posted online by USA Today.

The document, Sterling's apparent 26-page reponse to charges of violating the league's bylaws, adhered to the NBA's Tuesday deadline for the billionaire businessman's reply.

The NBA has said the next step will be a Board of Governors meeting on June 3, where the league's 30 ownership groups -- someone else will represent the Clippers -- will meet to hear evidence on Donald Sterling's behavior then vote on terminating the Sterlings' ownership rights.

About one month ago, Silver banned Donald Sterling from NBA facilities and functions and ordered him to pay a record fine after racist remarks by the Clippers' owner surfaced online. A source close to the situation said roughly two weeks ago that Donald Sterling -- who repeatedly denied he's a racist in a CNN interview -- wouldn't pay the fine, would reject the ban and might sue the NBA.

The document says Sterling faces a never-before-issued and unjust punishment.

"In reality, Mr. Sterling is being banned for life, fined $2.5 million, and stripped of his ownership rights for a purely private conversation with his lover that he did not know was being recorded and that he never intended to see the light of day," the document posted on USA Today says.

Sterling's remarks were made in the heat of an argument, and while they were not justified, they were not meant to harm the NBA, the response says.

Sterling asks that the NBA's charges be denied and that his ownership rights not be terminated.

The NBA didn't immediately respond to CNN's request for comment. Donald Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, had no comment.

Possible bidders

CNN's source on the potential sale said it was a busy Memorial Day weekend for Shelly Sterling.

The source indicated she met Sunday with a group led by former NBA star Grant Hill to discuss the sale of the Clippers.

In addition, the source familiar with the situation said she met over the weekend at her Malibu, California, home with ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who made an aggressive offer for the franchise.

Shelly Sterling is interested in fielding offers from billionaire businessman Patrick Soon-Shiong, Hill's group, entertainment mogul David Geffen and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and entrepreneur Magic Johnson and his Guggenheim partners, who two years ago teamed up to buy baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers.

Johnson has been at the center of the story from the outset because of controversial banter between 80-year-old Donald Sterling and his former companion V. Stiviano. After TMZ first reported those comments, Donald Sterling lashed out at Johnson in a CNN interview, questioning whether someone who contracted HIV should be considered a role model and asking rhetorically "what has he done" for the African-American community.

Johnson called the whole situation sad in his own interview with CNN, in which he urged Sterling to sell the team. The former Los Angeles Laker said if that happens -- and if his Guggenheim partners are interested -- "We'll make a run for it."

One person who apparently won't be the NBA franchise's next owner is media tycoon Oprah Winfrey. Despite much buzz in recent weeks, the source familiar with the situation says that Winfrey is "out of the running."

The same source said Shelly Sterling will accept offers this week for the Clippers.

Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, said no formal offers have been made for the team, which has risen in recent years from a last-place laughingstock to a playoff team with two superstars in forward Blake Griffin and guard Chris Paul.

"Shelly and the NBA are working cooperatively on the transaction," O'Donnell said.

The Sterlings have been publicly defiant since the story broke, challenging the NBA and its right to force the Clippers' sale.

But late last week the Sterlings agreed that Shelly would try to sell the NBA franchise voluntarily even as the league prepares a vote on terminating their franchise rights. The couple own the team through a trust.

Shelly Sterling previously had said she wanted to own at least part of the franchise, but doesn't want to be a controlling partner. But if it sold -- likely for between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, according to the well-placed source -- the NBA doesn't want either Sterling to have any ownership stake.

Still, they could take solace in the dizzying profit they'd make from such a deal; Donald Sterling reportedly bought the franchise in 1981 for about $12 million.

CNN's Rosalina Nieves, Jill Martin and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
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