Donald Sterling, the basketball bigot, is on the verge of a $2 billion payday after a former Microsoft CEO made the stunning offer to buy the Los Angeles Clippers.
The proposal from Steve Ballmer sets the stage for what would be the highest price ever paid for an NBA team. The previous high was the $550 million doled out last month for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Sterling, 80, would need to approve the bid, according to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the tentative deal. And three-fourths of the other 29 team owners and the NBA commissioner would also have to sign off on it. The latter moves are expected to be a layup.
The staggering offer could soon bring to a close a tumultuous chapter for the franchise that was thrust into national controversy after recordings surfaced last month of Sterling making racist comments about African-Americans.
Sterling chided gal pal V. Stiviano for posting an Instagram photo of herself and L.A. Lakers great Magic Johnson. Then he urged Stiviano, who is Mexican and black, not to bring blacks to Clippers games.
Johnson on Thursday welcomed Ballmer’s bid.
“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!” he tweeted.
The Hall of Fame hoopster said Ballmer, 58, who is worth a reported $20 billion, would be a far different owner from Sterling.
“Steve Ballmer loves basketball, is a smart businessman & he’ll probably shake every fans hand outside the arena on opening night!” Johnson tweeted.
The chief exec for Microsoft for 14 years, Ballmer faced down stiff competition from local investment groups, including a consortium headed by music mogul David Geffen, which bid $1.6 billion, the paper said.
Geffen’s group included fellow billionaire Oprah Winfrey, as well as executives from Chicago-based Guggenheim Partners, the owners of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers.
The possible deal was spearheaded by Sterling’s estranged wife Shelly, who owns 50% of the team.
It came through just five days before the NBA planned to hold a hearing that could have terminated the Sterling family’s ownership of the Clippers.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver slammed Donald Sterling with an unprecedented lifetime ban for his remarks, imposed a $2.5 million fine, and ordered him to sell his franchise.
Sterling reacted by saying it was “illegal” for the NBA to terminate his ownership. Now he stands to make a pretty penny. He paid $12.5 million for the Clippers in 1981.
Only the sale of the Dodgers in 2012 for $2.1 billion has racked up a higher price for a sports franchise in North America.
Ballmer’s offer was well over the reported value of the Clippers, which Forbes in January estimated to be about $575 million.
The Knicks had been the top NBA franchise, worth $1.4 billion, Forbes said.
But former Sacramento Kings owner Joe Maloof said Ballmer made a “tremendous” buy.
“He got a bargain. There’s nothing like sports franchises in the big cities. Steve did the right thing, even if he overpaid in the short term. Long term, it’s a smart play,” Maloof told Bloomberg news.
“Sterling is not selling the team,” said his attorney, Bobby Samini.
“That’s his position. He’s not going to sell.”
With News Wire Services