Steve Ballmer wins bid to buy LA Clippers, report says

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is buying the LA Clippers from the controversial Sterling family.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Is the deal done? Said School of Business/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Is it all over bar the screaming?

After rumors emerged over the weekend that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has met with Shelly Sterling -- the slightly less controversial wife of the very controversial Donald Sterling -- with a view to buying the LA Clippers, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Ballmer's bid is the winner.

The report says that he offered $2 billion. Which is roughly the same amount, according to my instant calculations, that his stake in Microsoft has increased since he announced his retirement.

Ballmer has tried buying into the NBA before. He participated in a group bid for the Sacramento Kings that was thwarted.

Still, he's long been held up by the NBA's hierarchy as the "perfect prototype" of an NBA owner.

However, the LA Times says the Ballmer deal for the Clippers must be approved by owner Donald Sterling. He's the man whose apparently private conversation with his girlfriend, including racist remarks aimed at blacks in general and Magic Johnson in particular, was recorded and released.

Oddly, Sterling chose yesterday to reveal, as MyFoxLA reported, that he won't sell without a fight.

Those who have long missed basketball in Seattle will wish that Ballmer would move the team there.

However, as the LA Times points out, he has said before that a high valuation for the Clippers only makes sense in the LA market, where the Clippers are currently the more glamorous of the two local NBA teams.

On the other hand, what a twisted move it would be if Donald Sterling only agreed to the sale on condition that the team would move to Seattle, hence feeling he had extracted something (in addition to the money) as his few ounces of flesh.

Ballmer as an NBA owner is surely an exciting prospect.

So many other tech executives -- led by Mark Cuban at the Dallas Mavericks and followed by the likes of Paul Allen at the Portland Trail Blazers, former Apple engineer Robert Pera at the Memphis Grizzlies and Kleiner Perkins VC Joe Lacob at the Warriors -- have made for (mostly) popular owners.

None has ever been caught making statements remotely as questionable as those of Sterling. (Though Cuban did once say that the then head of NBA officiating couldn't run a Dairy Queen.)

The NBA is clearly trying to accelerate the sale of the Clippers, as it wants to have its image surrounded by a little more positive glow, especially as the playoffs reach their climax.

For Ballmer, though, this would represent a new beginning of sorts and one to which he would surely dedicate much of his legendary enthusiasm.

Of course, there will be those who will muse, like my colleague Rich Brown, that they look forward to "a sprawling Clippers front office comprised of multiple departments that never talk with each other."

But the NBA types won't get that joke at all.