Well, that was fast.
After rumors surfaced today of Steve Ballmer as a lead candidate to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers, now the LA Times is reporting that the former Microsoft CEO will indeed buy the NBA franchise for a whopping $2 billion — 10 percent of Ballmer’s net worth.
If the Times’ report is true, the record-breaking deal still needs to be signed by current owner Donald Sterling, who is being forced to sell the team in light of racist comments he made.
The Times notes that Ballmer, who retired from Microsoft after 34 years at the company in February, beat out two other groups who had bid $1.6 billion and $1.2 billion for the team.
Basketball fans in Seattle hoping that Ballmer will move the Clippers to the Emerald City will be disappointed. The deal needs approval from the 29 other owners, who will force Ballmer to agree to not move the Clippers elsewhere, the LA Times reported.
Ballmer also told the Wall Street Journal last this week that if he buys the Clippers, he will not move them to his current hometown of Seattle.
“I don’t work anymore, so I have more geographic flexibility than I did a year, year-and-a half ago,” he told the Journal. “Moving them anywhere else would be value destructive.”
The fact that Ballmer would keep the team in Los Angeles is a bit of a surprise, considering that the former Microsoft CEO was on the verge of purchasing the Sacramento Kings last year for $625 million and moving them to Seattle. Ballmer was also part of another investment group that tried to keep the Sonics in Seattle back in 2008 before the team left town to Oklahoma City.
But it appears that Ballmer has more interest in simply owning a team than he does for bringing professional hoops back to Seattle. Keeping the Clippers in L.A. is a rational business decision — there is already an adequate arena and the team ranked seventh in league attendance this season.
As my colleague John Cook outlined this morning, Ballmer purchasing and keeping the Clippers in Los Angeles could also have implications far greater than just basketball. If Ballmer ends up spending his retirement in a place other than Seattle, it would be a big blow to the tech region here. Many people assumed that Ballmer would stick around Washington and play a part in the community via philanthropy or — as many in the startup community hoped — angel investing. (See: Seattle entrepreneur starts petition asking Steve Ballmer to create $500M startup fund).
If Ballmer does become the owner of the Clippers, he’ll join Paul Allen (owner of the Portland Trail Blazers) as two former Microsoft execs now controlling NBA franchises.
Here’s some reaction from Twitter:
$2 billion for the Clippers would be insane. Deal with Staples Center is not good, TV deal will be 1/2 value of Lakers.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 29, 2014
Clippers vs. Blazers games are going to make Techmeme.
— Dan Primack (@danprimack) May 29, 2014
One silver lining for Seattle fans: Steve Ballmer will soon be in position to influence other NBA owners about expansion and about Seattle.
— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) May 29, 2014
Clippers sold for more than twice what the NBA makes off its nationally televised games this year
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) May 29, 2014
Steve Ballmer will spend more for Clippers, than what new NBA Owners spent, since '11, for Pistons/Bucks/Grizzlies/Sixers/Pelicans COMBINED
— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) May 29, 2014
Steve Ballmer proposes Clippers use same court strategy for next 30 years, no matter how many games they lose.
— Glenn Fleishman (@GlennF) May 29, 2014
Microsoft has always had an interesting relationship with the basketball industry. pic.twitter.com/Dr8kaQcRqZ
— Aaron Levie (@levie) May 29, 2014
— Philip Michaels (@PhilipMichaels) May 29, 2014
Steve Ballmer just bought the LA Clippys for $2 billion pic.twitter.com/wLg9GLshfU
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) May 29, 2014
Update, 10:35 a.m. Friday:
Here’s a statement from the NBA acknowledging Thursday’s events:
NBA statement on potential Clippers sale: pic.twitter.com/D40otJl4cb
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) May 30, 2014
Update, 10:55 a.m. Friday:
Chris Hansen, the San Francisco hedge fund manager who partnered with Ballmer in the duo’s attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings and bring them to Seattle last year, issued this statement on Friday morning:
First I would like to congratulate Steve Ballmer on his apparent successful bid for the Los Angeles Clippers. Steve’s passion for basketball and commitment to the NBA will make him a great owner and strong asset for the league.
I would also like to assure Seattle fans that my remaining partners and I remain committed to bringing the NBA back to Seattle. The environmental review process for the Seattle Arena is nearing completion and we will soon be in a strong position to attract a franchise back to the Emerald City.
Update, 2:15 p.m Friday
Donald Sterling is now suing the NBA for $1 billion dollars, but it doesn’t look like that will affect Ballmer’s purchase.
Donald Sterling plans to file a $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA, his attorney Max Blecker confirms in email to Yahoo Sports.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) May 30, 2014
Donald Sterling's lawyer Max Blecher said this lawsuit "has nothing to do with the sale."
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 30, 2014