By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference on Tuesday night ahead of the NBA Draft Lottery, and there was one topic that he discussed at length: the battle to remove Donald Sterling as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The NBA announced on Monday that June 3rd is when the owners will vote on whether to remove Sterling as owner. Sterling and his wife Shelly will lose their ownership interest in the Clippers if 75 percent of the 29 other owners in the league vote to remove Sterling as owner.
On the transition process that will take place, Silver said, "Well, under our constitution, he has until next Tuesday (May 27th) to respond to our charge and then a hearing will take place the following Tuesday on June 3rd, most likely here in New York. I envision once we move through that process that we will then put the team in order, and presumably we will hire an investment banker and we will conduct an orderly process."
Silver then brought out a new angle to the eventual sale of the Clippers, as he said, "We also have a fiduciary obligation to the Sterlings to ensure that we sell it for the highest possible price, and there's no doubt it's an incredibly valuable asset."
On how confident he is that it will be done in a timely fashion, Silver said, "My confidence level is high. We know we're doing the right thing, and I know I have the owners behind me."
Silver continued, "I'll say that we've had strong leadership from Glen Taylor, who's the chairman of our board, and Peter Holt, who just recently stepped down as the former chairman, or who had been the former chairman of the board. We have a very active advisory finance committee, which is 10 NBA owners who have been meeting on a regular basis to discuss these proceedings, and the timing is laid out in the NBA Constitution. We're following it to the letter in terms of number of days that Mr. Sterling has to respond and then when the hearing will be held, and as I said, I know we're doing the right thing here. This is an unprecedented proceeding.
"Will there be bumps in the road? Presumably yes. Mr. Sterling on one hand at least in his CNN interview indicated a willingness to accept the judgment of his owner partners. His lawyers are saying otherwise, so we'll see," said Silver.
On evidence in the case and giving Sterling three months to respond, Silver said, "We're not going to talk about the specifics of the case. In terms of additional time, the answer has been no. The proceedings and the process is set out in our constitution, something they signed on for when they became owners in the league.
Silver said of the ownership interest of Steling's wife Shelly, "We haven't focused on any conduct by Mrs. Sterling. The way the franchise termination proceedings work is that if the primary controlling governor of the team in essence is found by three quarters of the other members of the association, the other owners in the league have in essence done something under our constitution that calls for the termination of his team, all ownership interests are terminated as part of that proceeding."
On Shelly Sterling's position on this, Silver said, "As I understand the position of Mrs. Sterling's lawyers, in essence they would say we accept you can terminate Mr. Sterling, but somehow Mrs. Sterling comes with the team. I think even if that's not what it said in our constitution, it just doesn't make sense. The same way even if you had unrelated partners, if you terminated the franchise of the primary owner and that owner had several colleagues, cronies, who were also owners with him, it wouldn't make sense that under our constitution we could then go about selling the team, but those other partners would have to come along. So our position is once under the constitution, based on Mr. Sterling's conduct, if the owners ultimately decide that it's appropriate to terminate his franchise, the interest of all owners is terminated."
On if he thinks he can meet with Donald Sterling 'man-to-man' based on how this process has gone, Silver said, "Well, I'll only say that Mr. Sterling still owns the Los Angeles Clippers. Mrs. Sterling, as I understand it, through a trust owns 50 percent of the team, as well. It is their team to sell, and so he knows what the league's point of view is, and so I'm sure if he wanted to sell the team on some reasonable timetable, I'd prefer he sell it than we go through this process. So if that's what you mean by man-t0-man, I'm open to that."