Sterling Digs In As Clippers Bidding War Begins

“...he’s gone from ‘shock and awe’ to go get ‘em and kill ‘em.'”

The bidding war for the LA Clippers has begun in earnest, but Donald Sterling still appears to be preparing for a legal war. ESPN reports that Shelly Sterling, who was reportedly given permission to sell the team by her “estranged” husband Donald Sterling, has already received several bids well over $1 billion. However, Donald Sterling’s attorney, Max Blecher, has made clear that his client is more resolved than ever to fight the NBA tooth and nail, saying "he's gone from 'shock and awe' to 'go get 'em and kill 'em.'"

ESPN reports:

Shelly Sterling and her advisers received a handful of bids for the team Wednesday -- with sources saying the bids are well more than $1 billion -- in what is turning into a rush to find a buyer for the franchise before Tuesday's Board of Governor meeting at which both of the Sterlings' ownership interests could be terminated.

Shelly Sterling seems to be attempting to sell the team before next Tuesday, when the NBA board of governors might strip the Sterlings of negotiation rights. A quick sale would allow the Sterlings to potentially negotiate payment terms to reduce their capital gains tax liability (currently 33.3%). Donald Sterling purchased the team in 1981 for only $13.5 million and many analysts estimate a selling price of upward of $1.5 billion, so the tax implications are massive. However, if three-quarters of the league owner’s vote, as most anticipate, to strip the family of all ownership rights, sale terms negotiations would default to the league.  

Sterling’s apparent mixed signals regarding sale of the team has caused a great deal of speculation about his motives. A letter from Sterling’s attorney to the NBA on May 22 said Sterling agreed to the sale the LA Clippers and confirmed that he had authorized his wife to do so. However, Belcher said Sterling had since changed his mind, deciding instead to "go get 'em and kill 'em":

"On May 22, that's what he wanted to do. But as time has evolved, he's come to a much more hard-line position. The May 22 letter was something he wouldn't think of doing today. It's an evolutionary process; he's gone from 'shock and awe' to 'go get 'em and kill 'em.'"

One source told ESPN that one theory is that Sterling might be using the sale process to establish the team’s value as part of his strategy to sue the league for damages.