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Donald Sterling's wife will fight to keep ownership of the Clippers

Donald Sterling Donald Sterling's wife, Shelly (right), believes she is entitled to the team as co-owner. (John W. McDonough/SI)

Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling from the NBA for life last week, but the Los Angeles Clippers could still remain in the Sterling family.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Sterling's wife, Shelly, has no plans to sell the team and believes her husband's lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine do not apply "to me or my family."

“I have been co-owner since 1981,” Shelly Sterling said in a statement released Wednesday. “During those 33 years, I have been a diehard fan even when the team was in the basement of the league. Now that all of our hard work is paying off, I want to celebrate the success that we are finally achieving.”

ROUNDTABLE: Who should be the next owner of the Clippers?

Sterling has remained visible in recent days despite the controversy surrounding her husband, attending several Clippers games. She has said she believes she is legally entitled to the team and has condemned her husband's "racist comments."

“I do not condone those statements that you heard,” Shelly Sterling said in a statement on April 27. “I do not believe in them. I am not a racist. I never have been, I never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family.”

McCANN: What's Donald Sterling's next move?

But not everyone is buying the firm divide between Sterling and her husband. Clippers play-by-play man Ralph Lawler, the longest tenured employee of the organization, told the Los Angeles Times that the Clips are ready to move on.

"I think in the eyes of the players and the coaching staff and the basketball staff, the page has been turned, and I think it would be difficult to turn it back," Lawler said.

Adding to the chaos surrounding the Clippers is the NBA's increasingly quick action to find a new leader. Clippers team president Andy Roeser took an indefinite leave of absence on Tuesday, likely signaling the end of his tenure with the organization.

McCANN: Sterling set for epic legal fight with NBA

Meanwhile, the NBA Advisory/Finance Committee held its second meeting on Wednesday to review the Clippers' situation and help find a CEO to run the team in the interim. The committee plans to reconvene next week, according to a statement.

If Sterling's wife is able to maintain ownership of the team, it could save her husband hundreds of millions of dollars. As SI.com's Michael McCann reported on Wednesday, Donald Sterling faces hundreds of millions of dollars in capital gain taxes should he be forced to sell the Clippers. While there are a few bylaws that Sterling could attempt to use to avoid the taxes, it's unlikely a ruling would come down in his favor.

Keep in mind that, as (Robert) Raiola was first to note in an earlier SI.com article, if Sterling dies while owning the team, he would not have to pay capital gain taxes on the Clippers. Instead, his heirs would take Sterling's interest in the team and not be subject to capital gain taxes in that transfer. While they may be subject to estate taxes, the heirs would only pay capital gain taxes if they sell Sterling's interest in the team. Crucially, the gain would be the difference between the value of the team when they inherited it (perhaps $1 billion) and the value of it when sold, rather than the much larger difference between the value of the team when Sterling purchased it ($12.5 million) and the value of it when sold. Tax consequences are among many reasons why Sterling is incentivized to fight the NBA in court.

More Donald Sterling coverage

McCANN: What's Donald Sterling's next move?

NBA world reacts to Sterling’s lifetime ban

McCANN: Sterling set for epic legal fight with NBA

ROUNDTABLE: Who should own the Clippers?

Transcript of Silver’s press conference

NBA team owners align against Sterling

Donald Sterling’s wife: ‘I am not a racist’

Obama on Sterling: ‘Offensive, racist remarks’

JENKINS: NBA validated Sterling with CP3 veto

TAYLOR: Clips left in impossible position

 
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