Shelly Sterling wins $2.6 million judgment over gifts to V. Stiviano
The recordings that Donald Sterling’s companion made of his off-color remarks cost him ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers and cost her the benefits of a sugar daddy.
A judge ruled that V. Stiviano must turn over the keys to a $1.8 million house that Donald Sterling bought her and pay Shelly Sterling some $800,000 that her husband showered on the younger woman in cash, a Ferrari and other luxury vehicles.
Judge Richard Fruin Jr. relied partly on Stiviano’s own words to conclude Tuesday that her lavish lifestyle was bankrolled by the billionaire and came from community property he and his wife had amassed through an apartment rental empire built over six decades of marriage.
Stiviano’s testimony that she contributed an unknown amount to the duplex with small bills donated by family and friends was "not believable," Fruin said. He relied instead on a recording in which she told Donald Sterling: "I want Shelly to know you bought me the house."
Recordings played at the trial showed Donald Sterling trying to explain to Stiviano that the $240,000 Ferrari and house near Beverly Hills could be considered community property and discussing how to hide the assets.
The ruling came nearly a year after a recording of Donald Sterling telling Stiviano not to associate with black people led the NBA to ban him for life and fine him $2.5 million.
The recording was leaked weeks after Shelly Sterling sued Stiviano, alleging she was her husband’s mistress.
The exact nature of their relationship was never clear.
Stiviano, 32, called him a lover and father figure but said they never had sex. Donald Sterling called her an "ex-friend" on the witness stand, though he said in recordings that he loved her and wanted to give her everything.
Shelly Sterling said she felt vindicated by the judge’s ruling but mourns the loss of the team, which had finally become a contender after decades as cellar dweller.
"It was a horrible thing to go through," she told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "They were like my family. To this day I still feel very bad about it."
The judge rejected defense arguments that Shelly Sterling couldn’t seek community property from a third party and that the gifts were made when the Sterlings were estranged.
Attorney Mac Nehoray said he and his client were disappointed and would appeal.
While Shelly Sterling acknowledged marital problems, she said the couple never separated even though she had divorce papers drawn up.
The couple testified at trial last month in Los Angeles Superior Court about their enduring love for each other, displaying cards they gave each other for anniversaries and birthdays.
Despite making nice during the trial, Donald Sterling is suing his wife and the NBA in federal court over the $2 billion sale of the team. She negotiated the deal with ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer after doctors found Donald Sterling incompetent to handle his business affairs.
His lawyer on Wednesday criticized Shelly Sterling’s lawsuit as a "pet project" that had extended Stiviano’s time in the spotlight.
"The sums spent by Shelly Sterling in pursuing this matter likely exceeds any amount that will be recovered," attorney Bobby Samini said. "We remain perplexed that so much time, energy and money have been allocated to litigating with Ms. Stiviano."
Shelly Sterling’s attorney scoffed at that statement.
"What do you expect from the lawyer for a husband who was caught red-handed gifting his mistress with millions of dollars of family money," Pierce O’Donnell said.
Shelly Sterling said she would donate the proceeds to charity.
"I didn’t do it for the money," she said. "I did it for justice. I think when somebody harms you in so many ways, justice has to prevail."