Sterling gets help as suitors line up

As the NBA awaits a response to its charges of termination against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling by midnight Eastern on Tuesday, his wife Shelly Sterling continued to negotiate a sale of the team with at least six serious bidders by the scheduled June 3 hearing and subsequent vote of the Board of Governors in New York.

Shelly Sterling has retained Bank of America to help sell the franchise, according to Bloomberg and later confirmed by ESPN.

ESPN reported on Sunday that at least six serious groups have approached Shelly Sterling and her advisers about purchasing the team. One is former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, whom she met with on Sunday.

Another, a source said, is billionaire surgeon Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, whose net worth was recently valued by Forbes magazine at $9.9 billion. Soon-Shiong was part of a group that bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers three years ago. He also is a part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, having bought Magic Johnson's shares in 2010.

A spokesperson for Oprah Winfrey confirmed Tuesday that she remains interested in the team. ESPN's Jeremy Schaap reported last month that Winfrey has partnered with music mogul David Geffen and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

ESPN's Marc Stein reported last week that former Clipper Grant Hill has partnered with billionaire investors and longtime Southern California residents Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh to form an ownership group to bid on the Clippers.

Television personality Larry King is also interested in joining one of the groups that will bid on the team.

"There has been talk and he would love to be involved," a spokesperson for King told ESPN on Tuesday.

How quickly Shelly Sterling can sell the team -- and whether she controls the sale -- remains to be seen, however.

Donald Sterling reached an agreement with his wife last week that allows her to negotiate a sale of the team. However, the NBA has said publicly that it intends to continue with the process of terminating their ownership.

It has been made clear to the Sterlings that the NBA would not accept any situation where either of them retains an interest in the team after it is sold, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

If the Board of Governors votes to terminate Sterling's ownership on June 3, the league would effectively take control of the franchise and the sale, sources said, creating a de facto deadline unless Shelly Sterling and her advisers can work out another arrangement.