Steve Ballmer Strikes Deal to Buy the L.A. Clippers for $2 Billion

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The Los Angeles Times reports that Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, has submitted a whopping bid of $2 billion to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. While Ballmer's bid is reportedly the highest one submitted, the deal has not been finalized or approved by the NBA.

According to multiple reports, Ballmer's bid was the largest by a wide margin. Record mogul David Geffen's group allegedly offered $1.6 billion and a group of L.A.-based investors led by Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh bid $1.2 billion. ESPN reports that Geffen has officially withdrawn from the bidding. Ballmer, whose net worth is estimated at $20 billion, was apparently the only suitor who was not seeking out partners to join in the bid.  

A sale price of $2 billion would dwarf the previous record for the amount of money paid for an NBA team, nearly four times the $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks just this month. It would be the second-highest price ever paid for an American sports franchise, trailing only the $2.1 billion paid for the Los Angeles Dodgers (and all the property they own) in 2012. Earlier this year, Forbes estimated the Clippers's current value at $575 million.

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There are still hurdles to overcome, however. The sale must be approved by both Shelly Sterling (who is reportedly handling the negotiations); her estranged husband, Donald, who has flip-flopped on whether he will agree to A sale or fight the NBA tooth and nail; and the league itself, which must approve all transfers of ownership. However, the league's owners are planning a hearing next week to remove Donald Sterling as owner of the Clippers, and would likely prefer to see a voluntary sale (and no legal battle) then a forced, protracted sale.

This might be a bit premature...

Update, 9:00 pm: Ramona Shelburne of ESPN now reports that there is a "signed, binding agreement" between the Sterling family trust and Ballmer, which means Donald Sterling's final approval is no longer needed. (The team is owned by the trust.) The offer will now be submitted straight to the NBA for final approval.

Update, 7:00 a.m.: According to ESPN sources, a previously unknown development helped facilitate the sale: Shelly Sterling was "very recently" made sole trustee of the Sterling family trust, after Donald was declared "mentally incapacitated." The rules of the trust apparently did not require a court hearing on the matter, and once the declaration was made, his approval for any decisions was no longer needed.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.