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Donald T. Sterling is an American real estate mogul, attorney, and the current owner of the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling acquired the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million, and as of the 2008 rankings, the team is valued at $297 million by Forbes magazine, ranking them twenty-fifth out of thirty teams.

Personal and professional life

Donald Tokowitz (legally changed his last name to Sterling as an adult) was born in 1933 in Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker, but he and his family moved to the Boyle Heightsmarker area of Los Angelesmarker, when he was two years old. His parents, Susan and Mickey, were Jewish immigrants. He attended Theodore Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles, where he was on the school's gymnastics team, and also served as class president; he graduated there in 1952. He next attended California State University, Los Angelesmarker and Southwestern University School of Law, also located in Los Angeles. Starting in 1961, he began to make his career as a divorce and personal injury attorney, but he made his biggest ventures in real estate, where he purchased a 26-unit apartment building in Beverly Hillsmarker.

He married his wife, the former Rochelle "Shelly" Stein, in 1957. They have three children and several grandchildren as well.

Los Angeles Clippers

Sterling has been widely criticized for his frugal operation of the Clippers, due in part to a consistent history of losing seasons. In recent years, however, he has shown an increased willingness to spend. In 2003, Sterling signed Elton Brand to the biggest contract in franchise history: a six-year, $82 million deal. He matched the contract the Utah Jazz offered restricted free agent Corey Maggette: a deal worth $45 million over six years. The Clippers have also since signed higher-priced veterans free agents, such as Cuttino Mobley in 2005, Tim Thomas in 2006, and Los Angeles native Baron Davis in 2008. Also, in another first during the Sterling tenure of Clippers ownership, the team gave a four-year contract extension to head coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr., as well as a five-year extension to center Chris Kaman. Both extensions took effect starting in the 2007-08 NBA season. Under Sterling's ownership, only Dunleavy and Bill Fitch (1994-1998) have lasted four seasons or more as Clipper head coach; as of the 2009-10 NBA season, Dunleavy will enter his seventh season as Clipper head coach, by far the longest tenure in that capacity in the franchise's nearly 40-year history.

To further his commitment to the Clippers, Sterling spent $50 million to build a state-of-the-art practice facility and team headquarters at the Playa Vistamarker complex near Los Angeles' Playa Del Reymarker neighborhood. This followed the lead of several other NBA franchises, including the cross-town rival Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Detroit Pistons, in having their own facility dedicated exclusively for team use. The facility was completed and opened in September 2008, in time for the start of the team's training camp. The team previously practiced at a local health club in suburban El Segundomarker, and before that at Los Angeles Southwest College.

Sterling and Los Angeles Lakers majority owner Dr. Jerry Buss were indirectly responsible in each owning their respective NBA franchises. The first instance came in 1979, in which Buss used the money he made from selling a portion of his apartment buildings to Sterling (worth $2.7 million), which covered the remaining balance in purchasing the Lakers, the Kings hockey team, and the Los Angeles Forummarker from Jack Kent Cooke for $67 million. Two years later, Buss suggested to Sterling that he could purchase his own NBA franchise, and Sterling bought the struggling San Diego Clippers for $12.5 million. Unlike Buss' instant success with the Lakers (including winning an NBA championship in his first season as owner, 1979-80), Sterling and his Clippers struggled through many lackluster seasons, and did not have their first winning season until the 1991-92 season, eleven years into his ownership. However, with the Clippers' move into Staples Centermarker in the 1999-2000 NBA season, the team began to build a contending team, and finally met that goal in 2005-06 when the Clippers won 47 games. This was a record for the most victories in a single season since the franchise moved to California. The overall franchise record is 49 wins, accomplished by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.

He rebuffed numerous offers from other cities (including nearby Anaheimmarker and their Honda Centermarker arena) to relocate the Clippers, and has been steadfast in his refusal to move the team out of Los Angeles proper. Sterling has always been of belief that he wants to eventually win a championship in the city of Los Angeles, despite the status of sharing Staples Center with the always-popular Lakers and previously playing in an outdated Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arenamarker.


Accusations of racism

On November 15, 2005, the Associated Press reported that Sterling had been ordered by U.S. District Judge Dale Fisher to pay $5 million in fees to plaintiff's attorneys in a case accusing him of trying to drive out non-Korean tenants, particularly blacks and Latinos, at apartments he owned in Los Angeles' Koreatown neighborhood.

On August 8, 2006, the U.S.marker Department of Justicemarker sued Sterling for housing discrimination in using race as a factor in filling some of his apartment buildings. The government's ongoing case alleges Sterling refused to rent to non-Koreans in the Koreatown neighborhood and to African Americans in Beverly Hills. The suit also alleges Sterling once said he did not like to rent to Hispanics because, "Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building," and also that "Black tenants smell and attract vermin."

In February 2009, Sterling was sued by former longtime Clippers executive Elgin Baylor for employment discrimination on the basis of age and race. The lawsuit alleges Sterling told Baylor that he wanted to fill his team with "poor black boys from the South and a white head coach." It also alleges that during negotiations for Danny Manning, Sterling said "I'm offering a lot of money for a poor black kid." The suit noted those comments while alleging "the Caucasian head coach was given a four-year, $22-million contract," but Baylor's salary had "been frozen at a comparatively paltry $350,000 since 2003."

Lesser Towers, Sterling Towers

Sterling purchased Lesser Towers, developed by Louis Lesser in the 1960's, according to the Los Angeles Times. Sterling changed the name to Sterling Towers, and began to run regular ads in the Los Angeles Times highlighting that Sterling Towers was developed by Donald Sterling, not Louis Lesser.

Skid Row homeless assistance pledge broken

Despite a June 26, 2006 Los Angeles Times article, detailing the Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation's pledge to spend $50 million on a site on the eastern end of Downtown Los Angelesmarker to provide services for Los Angeles' homeless population, nothing has been built. According to an LA Weekly article[229731]Donald T. Sterling's Skid Row MirageThe billionaire Clippers owner claims he's creating a major homeless center. He's not, but image is what counts. from February 19, 2008, critics were skeptical that the homeless center would ever be built, and surmised that Sterling bought the property purely for its real estate value. A follow up article from the LA Weekly[229732]Donald T. Sterling's Fake Homeless CenterAfter hiatus, ads began again states that the foundation has yet to even start attempting to deliver on its promises but continues to run full page ads trumpeting its pledge in the LA Times.



  1. #25 Los Angeles Clippers -
  2. State Bar of CA :: Donald T. Sterling
  3. AP
  4. Bill Plaschke, There are no winners in Elgin Baylor's lawsuit against Clippers, Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2009, Accessed February 13, 2009.
  5. Bill Plaschke, There are no winners in Elgin Baylor's lawsuit against Clippers, Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2009, Accessed February 13, 2009.
  6. Lisa Dillman, Elgin Baylor sues Clippers, claiming racism, Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2009, Accessed February 13, 2009.
  7. Lisa Dillman, Mention of David Stern is an error in Elgin Baylor's lawsuit, Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2009, Accessed February 13, 2009.
  8. LA Times, September 18, 1966 [1]
  9. Los Angeles Times, Friday, November 13, 2009, page B6, lower right quarter page
  10. Real Estate Mogul's Skid Row Project Has Big Buzz but Little Detail

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