Friday, May 30, 2014

Steve Ballmer To Buy L.A Clippers For $2 Billion

Former Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer, left, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attend an NBA playoff game on May 11. GC Images
Steve Ballmer, Former Microsoft chief, reached an agreement to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion with Shelly Sterling, but it remains uncertain if her husband and embattled team owner, Donald Sterling, will fight it.
Mr. Sterling's attorney had said late Thursday—before Ms. Sterling announced the deal—that Mr. Sterling hadn't yet decided what he will do.
Ms. Sterling has been running a process to sell the team and said early Friday that she had signed a binding contract for the sale. She and Mr. Sterling each owns half of the team through a trust they share, though he is the owner as recognized by the NBA.
Ms. Sterling, in announcing the deal, said she was acting under "her authority as the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust." Ms. Sterling believes that she has the authority to declare Mr. Sterling mentally incapacitated and to sell the team without his consent under provisions lined out in the trust they share, people familiar with her thinking said.
It remains unclear what authority Ms. Sterling has or whether the NBA would agree to a sale without Mr. Sterling's approval. A representative for Mr. Sterling wasn't immediately available to address Ms. Sterling's latest claim.
In an emailed statement Friday, an NBA spokesman said the league was awaiting the necessary documents on the proposed sale from Ms. Sterling and that the preferred outcome remains "a voluntary sale of the team."
Mr. Ballmer, whose bid is three times the record price for an NBA franchise, said he would be "honored" to have his name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval. Mr. Ballmer, who has tried before to purchase an NBA team, has spoken about his interest in the league and sport.
For the NBA to sign off on a sale, the league wants Mr. Sterling to agree to several provisions: to not sue the league, to pay a $2.5 million fine levied by the league and to accept a lifetime ban imposed by the league, according to people familiar with the terms.
Ms. Sterling received four offers for the franchise. They included a $1.6 billion bid from entertainment mogul David Geffen, who is working with Guggenheim Partners, Oprah Winfrey and Laurene Powell Jobs, the wife of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. There was also a $1.2 billion offer from billionaires Antony Ressler and Bruce Karsh, who were joined by former NBA star Grant Hill.
Investors Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry paid $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this year, the most recent sale of an NBA team. The deal included the assumption of $125 million in debt. The highest price paid for a U.S. sports team was the $2.15 billion paid for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team in 2012.

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