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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Featured, Sports | 19 comments

Report: Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to (apparently) buy Clippers for $2 billion


According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles’ Clippers’ — and the NBA’s — nightmare may be over: the paper reports that former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer will buy the team…for big bucks:

Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer won a frenetic bidding war for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, with his $2-billion offer setting a record price for an NBA team, The Times has learned.

The “if” here is whether current owner Donald Sterling will give the green light to a deal reportedly put together by his wife Shelly — and there are those who think the two are actually putting on a good cop/bad cop public routine. And there are already reports that the deal isn’t quite a deal (yet). But the Times report is intriguing:

Ballmer, who was chief executive of Microsoft for 14 years, was chosen over competitors that included Los Angeles-based investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh and a group that included David Geffen and executives from the Guggenheim Group, the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to three individuals familiar with the negotiations.

One of the individuals with knowledge of the negotiations said the Geffen group bid $1.6 billion and Ressler at $1.2 billion.

The sale price is almost four times the highest previous NBA franchise sale price — the $550 million paid earlier this month for the Milwaukee Bucks. It is second only to the Dodgers’ 2012 sale for $2.1 billion as the highest price for any sports team in North America.

The prospective sale by Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling comes five days ahead of an NBA hearing to oust her family from ownership following a controversy in which Donald Sterling insulted African-Americans in a secret audio recording.

The tentative deal still must receive the blessing of her husband, Donald Sterling, who has waxed and waned on the question of whether he would allow his wife to sell the team he has controlled for more than three decades.

The deal also needs the eventual approval of 29 other NBA owners, but is expected to clear that hurdle as long as Ballmer reaffirms his pledge to keep the team in Los Angeles and not move it to Seattle, where he lives.

Sterling had gotten himself into boiling hot water for comments recorded by his girlfriend that revealed him to be a racist who had utter contempt for African-Americans, even though they make up the bulk of his team (and of NBA players). When he tried to apologize he just made matters much worse.

Most reports suggest that if there’s a sale that could go through ASAP, this is it, which doesn’t mean it’ll go through. But no matter who buys the team, Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick thinks the Clippers sale merits a Harvard study on “idiocy profits”:

The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers will yield a windfall for Donald Sterling, whose racist remarks and bungled apology will lead to a record-shattering price for a team.

“Never in the course of sports purchases has complete idiocy led to a price that will definitely raise the value of every single NBA team,” said Andy Dolich, who has held management positions in the four major U.S. sports leagues. “The next major focal point will be on the amount of money that was paid to a guy that pulled the pin on his own hand grenade while holding it.”

Sterling paid about $12.5 million for the Clippers in 1981, making him the National Basketball Association’s longest-tenured owner. Proceeds from any sale, whether voluntary or forced, will go to Sterling and his co-owner wife, Shelly, who is working with Bank of America Corp. to sell the club in what sports bankers say is an unprecedented time frame to complete a transaction of this magnitude.

Shelly Sterling wants a signed agreement before June 3, when the league’s owners at the insistence of Commissioner Adam Silver will probably vote to seize the team and sell it.

Five prospective owners submitted bids for the team yesterday, said a person with direct knowledge of the process. One group, backed by Ares Management (ARES) Chairman Tony Ressler and Oaktree Capital (OAK)’s Bruce Karsh, offered $1.2 billion, more than double the record amount paid for an NBA franchise, according to a person with direct knowledge of the bidding. Former Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said in an e-mail he made a binding bid without disclosing the amount. Forbes, citing a person familiar with Ballmer’s interest in the team, said he offered $1.8 billion.

If the sale goes through, here would be the Clippers new, somewhat shy owner: