McCann: NBA TV deal could affect Donald Sterling litigation

NBA’s new TV deal reportedly worth $24 billion over 9 years
Monday October 6th, 2014

The NBA announced in August that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had officially become the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The announcement came after Los Angeles County court judge Michael Levanas ruled that Shelly Sterling, the wife of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, legally sold the team to Ballmer for $2 billion. 

In challenging the sale of the team, Sterling claimed the Clippers were worth more than the selling price. Though Sterling's legal effort to regain control of the Clippers is over, he has filed other lawsuits against the NBA, commissioner Adam Silver and Shelly.

On Monday, legal expert Michael McCann wrote about how the NBA's new TV deal with ESPN and Turner, which kicks in prior to the 2016-17 season and is worth $24 billion over nine years, could bolster Sterling's case.

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While attempting to legally block the sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft owner Steve Ballmer, Donald Sterling insisted the Clippers were worth between $2.5 and $5 billion and that Ballmer was paying less for the team than market value. Sterling’s argument was unpersuasive at the time, but he may have been correct. If Ballmer sells the Clippers tomorrow, the team is probably worth more than $2 billion, especially if the NBA's national TV deal helps negotiate more lucrative local TV deals. While Ballmer was undoubtedly aware that the NBA would sign a more lucrative TV deal than it currently enjoys, he probably didn't know the deal would be worth so much.

There is a legal significance to the TV deal for Sterling. While Sterling has ended his fight to get the Clippers back, his lawsuits against the NBA, Silver and Shelly Sterling for allegedly harming him through fraud and violations of constitutional and antitrust law continue. In the unlikely event these lawsuits prevail, Sterling could better prove damages by saying he was right the Clippers were sold at a discount to Ballmer. Of course, Shelly Sterling has indemnified the NBA of legal costs associated with her husband, so Donald Sterling's victory would be largely symbolic. But it is a victory he would still savor.

McCann also writes about the deal's impact on player contracts, the possibility of a lockout and more. To read his entire column, click here.

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