Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer agreed to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. The sale may have brought some relative clarity as the Clippers went through uncertainty in the past month amid embattled owner Donald Sterling making racially insensitive comments on an audio tape that earned him a life-time ban and a $2.5 million fine. Ballmer’s record-setting purchase may have skyrocketed the value of NBA franchises elsewhere.
But much work still needs to be done. The first step: the NBA revealed in a statement that it still must approve the sale. The league will also still have a meeting on June 3 in New York in which the Board of Governor’s will have to have a 3/4 vote to strip Sterling of his ownership.”
“Commissioner Silver has consistently said the preferred outcome to the Clippers proceeding would be a voluntary sale of the team,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement. “Shelly Sterling advised the NBA last night that an agreement had been reached with Steve Ballmer, and the NBA Advisory/Finance Committee met via conference call this morning to discuss these developments. We await the submission of necessary documentation from Mrs. Sterling. In the meantime, the June 3 special meeting of the NBA Board of Governors remains as scheduled.”
The league vetted Ballmer last year during his unsuccessful attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings. But NBA officials have not returned repeated phone calls and e-mails for comment, including how much of a process this will take place.
Still, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said prior to the draft lottery last week that he would welcome Sterling selling the team before such a hearing in hopes that it would avoid both a lengthy and costly litigation case. Still, numerous league sources have said that process could happen only certain circumstances.
One, the Sterlings would have to sell entire team and have no interest stakes whatsoever. While Shelly Sterling has voiced approval about the NBA forcing a sale, she has maintained she is still entitled to her 50 percent ownership stake. The NBA will not approve such a scenario.
Two, the Sterlings would have to mutually agree on the sale. Though numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, have indicated the agreement was co-signed both by Ballmer and Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling’s lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, had indicated he will fight the sale. What complicates this issue is that Donald Sterling originally provided written consent on transferring ownership to Shelly with intentions to sell the team. ESPN has also reported experts have declared Donald Sterling mentally incapacitated, leaving Shelly Sterling as the sole trustee with the power to sell the team. The NBA will still want clarity on if Donald feels the same way.
There are likely more variables to weigh considering Ballmer’s involvement and evolving developments surrounding the Sterlings.