According to the Los Angeles Times on May 29, the Los Angeles Clippers will be sold for $2 billion to Microsoft’s former CEO Steve Ballmer. This is the highest price ever paid for an NBA team. The prospective sale happened five days before an NBA hearing where former owner Donald Sterling was to be formally stripped of his ownership rights.
The sale price of $2 billion is almost four times the highest price ever paid for an NBA franchise. That honor previously belonged to the Milwaukee Bucks who were sold earlier this month for $550 million. In the entire history of sports, the $2 billion price is second only to the 2012 sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2.1 billion.
The Los Angeles Clippers inspired a hot bidding war. Reported bids of $1.6 billion and $1.2 billion were voiced, but nothing topped Ballmer’s bid of $2 billion. Some of the better-known bidders were Los Angeles investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh, as well as executives from the Guggenheim Group who own the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The new owner, Steve Ballmer, 58, was the chief executive of Microsoft for 14 years. He left there in February. Ballmer was involved in a bid to purchase the Sacramento Kings last year, intending to move them to Seattle. The proposed move of the team was rejected by the NBA. He claims he has no intention of moving the Clippers.
Donald Sterling was forced to sell the Clippers by the NBA after being secretly taped making racist remarks. The NBA acted quickly with a large fine, banning him from the sport and demanding that he sell the team, this according to the contract he signed with the NBA when purchasing the franchise.
Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, told CNN that the remarks on that illegally-obtained tape do not reflect Sterling’s true views. "He's not a racist," Blecher said. "He's very troubled by the racist charges that have been made against him after 33 years of history (and evidence that show a) very close relationship and close support of the African-American community."
Donald Sterling wants to be vindicated and he may sue the NBA over forcing him out. The NBA contracts, however, are very restrictive and seemingly air tight. Whatever the outcome of this will eventually be for Donald Sterling, it looks like the Los Angeles Clippers will have a new owner.