AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Donald and Shelly Sterling at an LA Clippers game in 2010
The name Donald Sterling does not conjure a lot of positive stories when it is entered into a news search. The 83-year-old billionaire’s last appearance in the headlines was also his most profitable: He collected his share of $2B from selling the Los Angeles Clippers, the basketball franchise he owned for 23 years, after being forced to sell it for making racist comments. Say what you want about the man born Donald Tokowitz in Chicago in the era of the Great Depression, but no one can match him when it comes to cashing in big for being small.
Sterling’s main business has been real estate since the 1960s. He bought mostly apartment buildings, along with some offices and hotels in Beverly Hills and Westwood and drew complaints, eventually from the Department of Justice, for discriminating against tenants of color. When he bought the San Diego Clippers of the still-underdog National Basketball Association for $12M in 1981, he vowed not to move them, until he did, three years later, to his adopted city, LA.
Under his ownership, the Clippers lost more games than any other team in the league, and the stories about his bizarre-at-best interactions with his players and employees are myriad. Only in the last years of his ownership did the team manage to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, making it more enticing to Microsoft co-founder Steve Ballmer, who paid Sterling and his then-estranged wife, Shelly, the largest sum ever spent on a pro basketball team to that point.
Sterling owns well over 100 properties all over LA, focused in the more affluent neighborhoods like Santa Monica, Koreatown and Beverly Hills, where he owns the Beverly Hills Hotel. — Ethan Rothstein
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