Ex-Microsoft boss to buy basketball team for $2bn

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for a record-breaking $2bn (€1.46bn).

Now it’s up to others whether the deal goes through.

Shelly Sterling said in a statement she had signed a binding contract for a sale of the Clippers by The Sterling Family Trust to Ballmer in what would be a record deal if approved by the NBA.

Ballmer “will be a terrific owner”, Sterling said. “We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premier NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”

Sterling negotiated the sale after her husband, Donald Sterling, made racist remarks that were made public.

The remarks included Sterling telling girlfriend V Stiviano not to bring black people to Clippers games, specifically mentioning Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.

Shelly Sterling’s statement noted that she made the deal “under her authority as the sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers”.

Donald Sterling’s lawyers contend he is a co-owner and therefore must give his assent for the deal to go through. They also say he won’t be giving it. “Sterling is not selling the team,” said his lawyer, Bobby Samini. “That’s his position. He’s not going to sell.”

Ballmer beat out bids by Guggenheim Partners and a group including former NBA All-Star Grant Hill after presenting an “all- around superior bid,” a source revealed.

The individual, who wasn’t authorised to speak publicly, said Ballmer made more than an hour-long personal visit to Shelly Sterling’s Malibu home last Sunday and laid out his plan. “He knocked their socks off, they bonded, had a good connection,” the source said.

The amount was also the largest of the offers, and Ballmer was one potential buyer to deal with rather than numerous members of a group. Ballmer said he is honoured to have his name submitted to the NBA for approval and thanked the league for working with him throughout the process.

“I love basketball. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win — and win big — in Los Angeles,” Ballmer said. “LA is one of the world’s great cities — a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness.”

Magic Johnson lauded the deal on his Twitter account: “Steve Ballmer owning the Clippers is a big win for the City of LA and all the people who live in the City of Angels!”

Samini said NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to ban Sterling for life and fine him $2.5m as well as to try to oust him as an owner was him acting as “judge, jury, and executioner.”

“They’re telling me he should stand back and let them take his team because his opinion on that particular day was not good, was not popular?” Samini said. “It doesn’t make sense. He’s going to fight.”

It’s unclear how the agreement will affect a special hearing of NBA owners planned for Tuesday in New York to consider the charge against Donald Sterling for damaging the league with his comments.

A three-quarters vote of the 30 owners to support the charge would have resulted in the termination of both Sterlings’ ownership of the franchise. The deal is expected to be presented to the league before Tuesday.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox