The billionaire wife of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling got her revenge against a woman he secretly showered with gifts and whose recording of his racially offensive rant cost him ownership of the team.
Shelly Sterling’s victory Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court will force V. Stiviano to surrender a $1.8 million duplex and return $800,000 lavished on her in cash handouts and several luxury cars, including a Ferrari, during a shadowy relationship.
Shelly Sterling claimed that Stiviano seduced her 80-year-old husband and manipulated him to give up community property the couple amassed through a real estate rental empire built over six decades of marriage.
“Shelly is thrilled with the decision,” attorney Pierce O’Donnell said.
The award is a trifle for Sterling, but represents a triumph over a younger woman who cuddled up to her husband in public, told others she was the “next Mrs. Sterling” and caused them shame when the recordings surfaced.
Stiviano’s recordings toppled her husband and “took us both down,” Shelly Sterling testified at trial last month. “We lost the team. They were like another child.”
Stiviano was partly undone by those same phone recordings.
“Everything that I have you’ve given me from your heart without me begging or asking or throwing myself all over you,” Stiviano could be heard telling the billionaire in a clip played at trial to show they plotted to shield gifts from his wife.
Judge Richard Fruin Jr. rejected arguments by Stiviano’s lawyer that the gifts were made when Donald and Shelly Sterling were separated and that Shelly Sterling couldn’t seek them from a third party.
Attorney Mac Nehoray said he and his client were disappointed and would appeal the ruling, which is tentative and will become final in 15 days if there are no objections.
“Judges are supposed to interpret the law not make them,” he said in an email.
The ruling comes nearly a year after the recording of Sterling telling Stiviano not to associate with black people caused an uproar and led the NBA to ban him for life and fine him $2.5 million.
With the NBA threatening to seize the team, Shelly Sterling got hold of a family trust by showing her husband had signs of Alzheimer’s disease and negotiated a record $2 billion sale to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Her husband failed to block the sale in court and has sued his wife and the NBA in federal court.
The couple presented a united front at the Stiviano trial, discussing their enduring love for each other.
Testimony shed little light on the nature of the unusual three-way relationship that lasted about 2½ years.
Shelly Sterling said she assumed Stiviano was her husband’s mistress.
Stiviano and Donald Sterling denied having sex. She referred to him as a father figure and lover.
Donald Sterling, who was incredulous that his wife had described them at one point as being estranged, referred to the 32-year-old Stiviano as an “ex-friend.”
Shelly Sterling and Stiviano didn’t hide their disdain for each other.
Shelly Sterling said Stiviano had been nasty to her and taken advantage of her husband and didn’t deserve millions in gifts. Stiviano called Sterling the “Wicked Witch of the West” and said she hated her.
Sterling initially sought about $3.6 million from Stiviano, a figure an accountant said was a conservative estimate of the gifts that included the $240,000 Ferrari, a Bentley, a Range Rover, extravagant spending sprees and world travel.
After Fruin said he was having difficulty connecting all the money to Stiviano, lawyers for Sterling reduced their claim to $2.8 million, based on evidence and Stiviano’s own admissions
Fruin awarded all of that but $200,000, saying he had no credible evidence to support Stiviano’s guess that she rang up hundreds of thousands of dollars on Donald Sterling’s credit card.