LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Testifying today in a trial to determine whether his wife has authority to sell the Clippers, Donald Sterling claimed he can eventually get up to $5 billion for the team he has owned since 1981 and that his ego plays no role in his desire not to sell the NBA franchise at this time.
Emotional at times, and repeatedly clashing with veteran attorney Bert Fields, the 80-year-old billionaire also predicted he could win up to $9 billion in his antitrust suit against the NBA.
“Watch and see what happens,” Sterling told Fields, who is five years older than Sterling and has represented such clients as Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson and Warren Beatty.
Sterling repeatedly criticized Fields about his questions, saying many of them were improper or irrelevant. He bristled when Fields queried him about his bank loans.
“What do my bank loans have to do with this weird lawyer?,” Sterling asked.
Sterling also said he mistrusted many media outlets, including CNN, NBC News and the New York Times. He said many in the media report what they want and that he could not verify even things that his lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, was quoted in the press as saying on his behalf.
He also attacked the two doctors who found him mentally incapacitated, saying they never told him that their findings could be used as justification for his wife to remove him from the family trust and sell the team. One of the doctors was “intoxicated” and the other sat so close to him in the dean of his home that “I couldn't even breathe,” Sterling said.
Sterling testified another doctor found him to be “razor sharp” and that he runs five corporations, a task he said his wife is incapable of doing.
Sterling said he is hoping to get a lucrative television deal from Fox similar to the one the Lakers obtained from Time Warner. He also said he objects to any sale of the Clippers that would not leave his wife with some interest in the team, which he bought more than three decades ago for $12.5 million.
Sterling said his wife also has concerns about the NBA and its tactics.
“She's terrified and frightened the NBA will take everything away from her,” he said.
Fields asked Judge Michael Levanas, who is hearing the non-jury trial, to strike much of Sterling's testimony, saying the defendant was not answering his questions. Levanas, however, let most of the testimony stand, with some mild admonishment to the Clippers owner to be more cooperative with Fields.
Fields had some of his own criticisms of Sterling, saying he was wrong to suggest Fields had offered to settle Shelly Sterling's case the day before.
Donald Sterling is fighting the proposed $2 billion sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, contending Shelly Sterling was not authorized to sell the franchise. The Superior Court proceedings are focusing on whether he was induced into undergoing mental examinations by two doctors without being told the reason.
But there will be no rebuttal testimony from Donald Sterling's attorneys challenging the findings by two doctors that he was mentally incapacitated, which his wife maintains gave her authority to sell the team.
The trial also will deal with whether Donald Sterling's June 9 revocation of the family trust that held the Clippers had any impact on the proposed sale. Shelly Sterling's lawyers maintain the $2 billion offer from Ballmer was already accepted by their client and that her husband's actions were meaningless.
Donald Sterling tried unsuccessfully to have the case transferred to federal court, contending that his federal privacy rights were violated by the release of his medical records to his wife and the public.
The legal maneuver prompted a half-day delay in the start of the Los Angeles Superior Court trial on Monday while the judge and attorneys awaited a ruling from a U.S. District Court judge. By mid-afternoon, however, a federal judge had rejected the case, clearing the way for the state court trial.
In opening statements, another of Shelly Sterling's attorneys, Pierce O'Donnell, said his client's husband willingly agreed to undergo the neurological exams that found him to be incapacitated.
O'Donnell told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas that his client complied with the terms of a family trust when she made the deal with Ballmer. He said no fraud occurred and Donald Sterling changed his mind after originally agreeing to the deal.
Donald Sterling's attorney, Gary Ruttenberg, countered that Shelly Sterling's attorneys are improperly using confidential medical information, which he called “fruit of the poisonous tree” that should be excluded from court consideration. He also said the NBA is complicit in Shelly Sterling's actions.
“The NBA wants to get rid of my client,” he said. “They were colluding with Mrs. Sterling and her counsel to do this.”
The trial's first witness, Dr. Meril Sue Platzer, testified she conducted two types of brain scans on Donald Sterling in May and then went to his home to perform cognitive testing. She said Shelly Sterling was present and one of Donald Sterling's attorneys was in another room.
Platzer said that after two hours of testing, she told him he had Alzheimer's disease, and he replied by saying, “I'm hungry, I want to eat.”
His wife, however, was surprised, Platzer testified.
“She was taken aback, shocked,” Platzer said. “She felt bad for her husband.”
Platzer said she recommended that Shelly Sterling get a second opinion of her diagnosis to see if the second doctor backed up her findings. According to Shelly Sterling's attorneys, the second neurologist concluded Donald Sterling suffered from dementia.
Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life earlier this year following the public release of recorded conversations between him and frequent courtside companion V. Stiviano. Sterling is heard on the tape disparaging Stiviano for having her picture taken with black people and telling her not to bring them to Clippers games.
The league announced plans to take action against Sterling to force him to sell the team. But Sterling has since filed suit against the NBA, alleging violations of his civil rights. He contends that he was recorded illegally while making emotional remarks during a “lovers' quarrel” with Stiviano.