Steve Ballmer, who stepped down as Microsoft Inc CEO last year, has purchased the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers franchise for $2 billion, a record price tag for acquiring a professional basketball team.
In a news release from Greenberg Glusker, sole trustee Shelly Sterling revealed to reporters that she had signed a contract to sell Clippers to Ballmer on behalf of the The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the club.
“I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner. We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”
The deal is now scheduled for approval of the National Basketball Association’s Board of Governors before it is finalized. The NBA wasn’t available for comments.
“I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. I love basketball,” the new owner of the Los Angeles team claimed in a statement. “And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win – and win big – in Los Angeles.”
On Thursday, the former Microsoft Chief Executive outbid two groups, one led by media millionaire David Geffen who was ready to pay $1.6 billion and included TV talk show maven Oprah Winfrey and Oracle Corp CEO Larry Ellison. A group of Los Angeles investors also bid $1.2 billion for the team.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch was chosen to be the financial advisor in the deal, Sterling’s statement read.
“The Clippers came up for sale after the NBA banned owner Donald Sterling for life because of racist remarks he made in a recorded conversation that was leaked last month to entertainment news website TMZ.com,” Reuters informs.
Ballmer decided to lift his bid from an initial $1.8 billion offer made earlier on Thursday, sources familiar with the matter revealed, speaking on the condition of anonymity. If approved, the deal would be second only to the $2.15 billion paid in 2012 for baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers.
“It’s no wonder the prices are so high,” said sports consultant Ed Desser, a former president of NBA Television and New Media Ventures. “There just aren’t enough teams for all the billionaires who want them.”
The news of Ballmer’s retirement came a year ago. “I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
There were no obvious candidates to succeed Ballmer at a company that had only had two CEOs in its 38-year history. Ballmer had once indicated that he intended to stay at least until 2017.
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said in a statement when leaving the tech giant.