LOS ANGELES — Richard Parsons, the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, is due to step into the battle of billionaires going on in probate court over the proposed sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Parsons, once known as the "Mr. Fixit" of the business world during his tenure as CEO of Time Warner and Citigroup, will be called as a witness Tuesday to support Shelly Sterling’s bid to sell the team for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Donald Sterling, who owns the team along with estranged wife Shelly, is resisting the sale.
Parsons took over leadership of the Clippers in May during the media blitz surrounding the banishment of Sterling from the NBA for making racist comments. Sterling was ordered to sell his team, a plan he seemed to accept until he rescinded his agreement for his wife to sell the team. By then, she had a $2 billion offer from Ballmer.
Shelly Sterling also is on the witness list Tuesday along with Dean Bonham, an expert on sponsorship and marketing issues who is also the president of an NBA franchise. He is a leading negotiator of business and sports sponsorship contracts.
The high-stakes financial fight centers on whether Shelly Sterling was authorized to make a deal with Ballmer for the team’s ownership on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust.
While she was negotiating, Donald Sterling revoked the trust, a move designed to rescind his signed agreement for the sale of the Clippers, a team he bought for $12 million.
He announced from the witness stand earlier in the trial that he would never sell the team and would be suing the NBA for the rest of his life.
Shelley Sterling says her estranged husband has the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and is not competent to handle his own business affairs. But that issue is not being litigated.
On Monday, the chief financial officer of Sterling’s properties said that if the sale does not go through the billionaire may be forced to sell a large portion of his real estate empire to cover $500 million in real estate loans.
Darren Schield, who oversees the finances of the Sterling Family Trust, testified that three banks are ready to recall their loans to Sterling because of his decision to dissolve the trust.
Schield said if Sterling has to dump $500 million worth of apartment buildings he could destabilize the Los Angeles real estate market.
Sterling attorney Maxwell Blecher suggested that Sterling could take the company public in order to raise funds.
But Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, suggested it would be a tough sell "with Donald Sterling’s reputation."
Schield responded: "There’s huge reputation issues. I don’t know if anyone would want to go into partnership with him."
The NBA banned Donald Sterling for life for making racist statements after the release of recorded conversations. Sterling has denied he is a racist from the witness stand.
Schield testified in the probate trial that if Sterling’s loans go into default and he needs to refinance, banks would be reluctant to give him that much money at the low rate he has now.
If the sale doesn’t go through by Sept. 15, the NBA can seize the team and sell it at auction.
Donald Sterling has vowed he’ll never sell the team, claiming he is the victim of illegally recorded conversations that invaded his privacy.