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Parsons becomes LA Clippers interim CEO, Shelly Sterling prepared to fight for ownership of team

NBA continues to work toward forced sale of Los Angeles Clippers

The future of the Los Angeles Clippers continues to be in question. Richard “Dick” Parsons was just named the new interim CEO of the Clippers, and he is one of many attorneys-turned-businessmen who are playing a key role in the future of the pro basketball team.

A graduate of the Albany Law School, where he ranked at the top of his class, Parsons was an attorney on Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s (R-NY) staff, news reports said.  He followed Rockefeller to the White House when Rockefeller was vice president, and then Parsons then went to work for Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, the New York law firm.

He later worked for Dime Savings Bank, Time Warner and CitiGroup – all in top leadership positions. He is now senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners and is a member of the board of directors for the Commission on Presidential Debates. He was also chairman of Rudy Giuliani’s mayoralty campaign in New York City. The two had worked together in the law firm.

In addition, National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver was a former private practice attorney, too, and so was Donald Sterling – the Clippers owner whose racist rant led to the controversy. Silver banned Sterling for life from the NBA and imposed a $2.5 million fine for the offensive comments recorded in a conversation. Silver pledged he would do whatever he could to get the NBA owners to force Sterling to sell the team, InsideCounsel reported.

Silver’s actions were widely supported by NBA players – with many of them urging that Sterling be forced out as a team owner.

Meanwhile, Parsons said he wants to make Clippers coach Doc Rivers "a full-fledged partner" at the team. Parsons will report directly to the NBA, as the league continues to address the issues related to the ownership of the Clippers.

Silver, according to The Wall Street Journal, said Parsons will "bring extraordinary leadership and immediate stability to the Clippers organization."

The NBA board of governors is working on Sterling being forced out as owner of the team. He can be forced out as owner if three-fourths of the NBA owners approve the move.

Yet, Sterling may fight such a decision in court, especially given that he has fought many legal cases previously, InsideCounsel reported.

Also, Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly, says she want to retain her 50 percent stake in the team, which is owned by a family trust.

"I conferred with NBA commissioner Adam Silver … and endorsed the league's choice of Richard Parsons as interim chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Clippers," Shelly Sterling said in a statement quoted by ESPN. "Mr. Parsons has impressive management credentials in the important fields of the media, finance and professional sports. He is an ideal choice to run the franchise until the ownership issues are clarified."

In a radio interview, Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, said she wants "a terrific professional investor group to come in and run the company…. She helped build this family fortune that was able to buy the Clippers and for 33 years she's been a co-owner and avid fan. We're conferring with the NBA. We've been cooperative. We've supported their decisions."

“If she has to fight, she’ll fight. We respect property rights in America. We have due process. And she will fight to retain her interests,” O'Donnell said in a statement quoted in the news media.

She may not be able to remain an owner of the team – if the NBA forces her husband out as owner – based on NBA regulations.

On Sunday, the NBA issued a statement, quoted by ESPN, “Under the NBA constitution, if a controlling owner's interest is terminated by a 3/4 vote, all other team owners' interests are automatically terminated as well. It doesn't matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team."

But O'Donnell responded, "We do not agree with the league's self-serving interpretation of its constitution, its application to Shelly Sterling or its validity under these unique circumstances. We live in a nation of laws. California law and the United States Constitution trump any such interpretation."

The controversy came about after Donald Sterling’s conversation was taped in a private residence as he talked with one other person. The tape was later leaked to TMZ.

Some sports lawyers have questioned if the NBA board of governors can force an owner to sell a team or if the required number of owners would even support such a move.

 

Further reading:

 

NBA owners say they will act quickly on future of LA Clippers, but any decision may face roadblocks

NBA players support Silver’s ‘Sterling’ decision, but litigation may follow

Alleged racist comments attributed to Donald Sterling widely condemned

 
 
 

Contributing Author

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein is a veteran writer and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. A graduate of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he has won several...

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