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Rediff News  All News  » Business » Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer to buy NBA's LA Clippers for $2 bn

Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer to buy NBA's LA Clippers for $2 bn

May 30, 2014 08:58 IST

Image: Former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer answers questions at the company's annual shareholder meeting in Bellevue, Washington November 19, 2013.
Photographs: Jason Redmond/Reuters Ronald Grover and Eric Kelsey in Los Angeles

Former Microsoft Corporation chief executive officer Steve Ballmer won the bidding war for the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers franchise with a $2 billion offer, a record for a professional basketball team, a source with knowledge of the bidding said on Thursday.

Ballmer outbid two groups, one led by media mogul David Geffen that offered $1.6 billion that included TV talk show maven Oprah Winfrey and Oracle Corp chief executive officer Larry Ellison, the source said.

A group of Los Angeles investors also bid $1.2 billion for the team.

A Microsoft spokesman said Ballmer was not available for comment.

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Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer to buy NBA's LA Clippers for $2 bn

Image: Los Angeles Clippers interim CEO Richard Parsons speaks during a news conference at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California May 12, 2014.
Photographs: Kevork Djansezian/Reuters

The Clippers came up for sale after the National Basketball Association 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

Sterling, who has vowed to fight the NBA's punishment, would have to approve the sale, as would league owners.

Sterling authorised his wife Shelly, a co-owner of the team, to review the bids.

Ballmer's winning bid was raised from an initial $1.8 billion offer made earlier in the day, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

. . .

Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer to buy NBA's LA Clippers for $2 bn

Image: klahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) go for a rebound in the fourth quarter of game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Clippers won 101-99.
Photographs: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

If approved by Sterling and the NBA, 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."

Sterling, a Los Angeles-area real estate developer, paid $12.5 million in 1981 for the Clippers, which were then located in San Diego.

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Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer to buy NBA's LA Clippers for $2 bn

Image: A cashier counts out money at Macy's Herald Square on Thanksgiving Day in New York.
Photographs: Eric Thayer/Reuters

Ballmer, 58, who retired as Microsoft CEO in February, remains on the board and still owns about 4 per cent of the Redmond, Washington-based software giant, worth $13.4 billion.

Last year, he joined a group that unsuccessfully bid on the Sacramento Kings basketball team.

A long-time basketball fan, until a few years ago he played a regular pickup game with other Microsoft colleagues at a public gym near the Microsoft campus.

It is unclear how the team's potential sale will affect a June 3 hearing the NBA scheduled at which Donald Sterling can address the charges.

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The image is used for representational purpose only

Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer to buy NBA's LA Clippers for $2 bn

Image: Steve Ballmer.
Photographs: Jason Redmond/Reuters

At that meeting, the owners could force him to sell the team on a vote by 23 of the remaining 29 owners, the NBA has said.

Maxwell Blecher, Sterling's lawyer, said in an interview with CNN that his client is prepared to file suit to fight the charges, but that he intended to wait for communication from the NBA before deciding when and whether to do so.

An NBA spokesman and Sterling's attorney were not immediately available for comment.

(Additional reporting by Bill Rigby in Seattle)

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