The NBA said Friday it will go ahead with a vote on terminating Donald Sterling's ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, although it signaled that a proposal by Sterling's wife to sell the franchise was its preferred course.
The National Basketball Association said in a statement that co-owner Shelly Sterling had notified it late Thursday that she had reached an agreement to sell the club to former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.
The NBA said it was still awaiting necessary documentation from Shelly Sterling on the record $2 billion agreement with Ballmer and that it would proceed with the June 3 meeting of its Board of Governors on whether to strip Sterling of ownership for making racist remarks.
"Commissioner (Adam) Silver has consistently said the preferred outcome to the Clippers proceeding would be a voluntary sale of the team," the NBA said in a statement.
In his first major test since becoming NBA commissioner in February, Silver has taken a strong position on punishing Donald Sterling by banning him for life from the NBA. But he has also signaled that the NBA wants to avoid a prolonged fight in a case that has brought shame on the league.
Sterling, the controlling owner of the Clippers for 33 years, was also fined $2.5 million by the NBA after TMZ.com posted an audio recording of him criticizing a female friend for publicly associating with black people.
A sale of the Clippers, as well as the termination of Sterling's ownership, must be approved by NBA team owners.
"I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner," Shelly Sterling said in a statement announcing the sale in the early hours of Friday.
"We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success."
It was unclear if the NBA would call off the scheduled hearing and vote on Sterling's ownership when it receives the necessary documentation from Shelly Sterling.
Sterling last week handed controlling interest in the team to his estranged wife and she began negotiations with the NBA to sell the team.
Ballmer, 58, who retired as Microsoft CEO in February, outbid a group led by media mogul David Geffen that included Oprah Winfrey and Oracle Corp Chief Executive Larry Ellison, as well as a group of Los Angeles investors.
"I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. I love basketball," Ballmer said in a statement. "And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win - and win big - in Los Angeles."
Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, has said that Sterling would have to approve any sale of the franchise.
Editing by Mary Milliken and Bernadette Baum