Steve Ballmer can now expect friends and family to start hitting him up for tickets. Earlier Tuesday, the NBA announced that his purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers was now official.
Ballmer, Microsoft's former chief executive and a noted basketball nut, struck a deal with Shelly Sterling to buy the team for $2 billion in May. She acted in her capacity as the sole trustee of the Sterling family trust, which owns the team. Her estranged husband, Donald, who bought the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million, lost his bid to block the sale earlier this week when an appellate court denied a request to stop the deal.
The NBA's board of governors had previously approved the sale.
The league hit Sterling with a lifetime ban after a recording surfaced in which he told a former girlfriend not to have her picture taken with black people. In the same recording Sterling also told her not to bring blacks to Clippers games.
Ballmer is a noted sports enthusiast, dating back from his days as the football team manager when he was an undergraduate at Harvard with Bill Gates. But he has a special love for basketball, according to friend and neighbor -- and Seattle Seahawk's coach -- Pete Carroll. "He loves hoops," Carroll told The New York Times in May. "The game is real special to him."
I can attest to that. Several years ago, I was at the company's Redmond, Wash. headquarters for a day of meetings. Ballmer was the last in a succession of executives I was scheduled to meet. When he showed up, Ballmer had a ball of cotton stuffed into one of his nostrils, which was still crusted with blood.
"What the heck happened to you?" I asked.
"Oh, it was nothing. Just our morning pickup game," he said. "My nose got in the way of somebody's elbow."
Ballmer also belongs to a fraternity of current and former Microsoft executives who either are majority or partial owners of professional sports franchises. For instance, company co-founder Paul Allen owns NFL team the Seattle Seahawks. Jeff Raikes, who held a variety of positions at Microsoft between 1981 and 2008 when he retired, has been a part owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team since 1992. Microsoft's former chief legal counsel, Bill Neukom, holds a minority ownership stake in the San Francisco Giants baseball team and was the team's managing general partner from 2008 until 2011.