Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling responded forcefully Tuesday to the NBA's charges to terminate his ownership, while his estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, continued to move quickly to sell the team by the end of the week.
Donald Sterling's lawyer, Max Blecher, told ESPN on Tuesday that his client "is going to fight to the bloody end" and has effectively "disavowed" the agreement he reached with his wife last week that would allow her to negotiate a sale of the team.
"I don't know what agreement she has with him, but I'm saying to you today, he disavows anything she's doing to sell the team," Blecher said. "He says, 'It's my team, and I'll sell it when and if I get around to it.'"
Asked why Sterling seems to have had a change of heart, Blecher said, "He was in a state of shock at first. Now he's recovering and he's much more feisty."
Shelly Sterling and her advisers were undeterred by Donald Sterling's position and continued to move swiftly to sell the team, setting a deadline of Wednesday morning for the first round of bidding on the franchise, sources told ESPN.
Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney for Shelly Sterling, issued a statement Tuesday stating that his client had a written agreement with her husband to sell the team and she "and the NBA are working cooperatively on the transaction."
ESPN, meanwhile, has obtained a letter, dated May 22, that was sent from Donald Sterling's lawyer to the NBA, in which he tells the league he has authorized Shelly "to negotiate with the National Basketball Association regarding all issues in connection with the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers team, owned by LAC Basketball Club, Inc."
Blecher was copied on the letter, which was sent by one of Sterling's personal lawyers.
Shelly Sterling has retained Bank of America to help sell the franchise. ESPN reported Sunday that at least six serious groups have approached Sterling and her advisers about purchasing the team. Four of those groups are known: former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; a group including music mogul David Geffen, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey; billionaire surgeon and entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong; and a group including former NBA star Grant Hill and Southern California businessmen Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh.
One source with knowledge of the process estimated that most of the initial bids will start at $1 billion.
Bank of America made bid books with financial information on the team available to potential buyers Tuesday. The Clippers' television rights are up in two years, a key reason the franchise could sell for more than $1 billion. However, the Clippers still have nine years remaining on their lease with Staples Center, according to sources.
Shelly Sterling has issued deadlines to bidders and hopes to have a deal done by Monday, according to sources. She had told bidders to submit letters of interest by Wednesday, with firm offers due by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. It is then expected that a second round of bidding will take place this weekend, with a winning bid decided upon by Monday.
The dispute between the Sterlings comes as the NBA continues to press for a June 3 hearing of its board of governors, which will end with a vote on whether to terminate the Sterlings' ownership.