NBA: Former Microsoft CEO Ballmer to buy Clippers for reported $2 billion
The NBA announced Friday that Shelly Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust settled their ownership dispute of the Los Angeles Clippers and agreed to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
The NBA said in a release that the league will “withdraw its pending charge to terminate the Sterlings’ ownership of the team” and cancel a hearing on the issue scheduled for June 3.
“Mrs. Sterling and the Trust also agreed not to sue the NBA and to indemnify the NBA against lawsuits from others, including from Donald Sterling,” the league said in its statement.
The sale is pending approval by the NBA Board of Governors.
Earlier, it was reported by TMZ that Donald Sterling was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, leading him to be declared too “mentally incapacitated” to control the team.
That didn’t stop Sterling from filing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Friday a suit against the NBA seeking in excess of $1 billion for damages.
The suit alleges that Sterling’s constitutional rights were violated by the league because it relied on an “illegal” recording of his racist remarks made to a girlfriend. The filing also said the NBA breached the contract by issuing Sterling a $2.5 million fine and violated antitrust laws with a forced sale.
“Mr. Sterling’s lawsuit is predictable, but entirely baseless,” NBA general counsel Rich Buchanan said. “Among other infirmities, there was no ‘forced sale’ of his team by the NBA, which means his antitrust and conversion claims are completely invalid.
“Since it was his wife, Shelly Sterling, and not the NBA, that has entered into an agreement to sell the Clippers, Mr. Sterling is complaining about a set of facts that doesn’t even exist.”
Sterling is officially the team’s former owner even before the $2 billion sale to Ballmer gets final approval from the NBA.
Sterling was determined to be mentally unfit to make decisions related to the family trust.
According to USA Today, the Sterling Family Trust owns the team and based on provisions and protocol related to mental capacity, Shelly Sterling became the sole power-wielding decision-maker recently. Experts determined Donald Sterling was not capable of making those decisions due to his mental state.
Sterling’s attorney, Max Blecher, however, vehemently denied reports that his client is in a poor mental state, telling ESPN that Sterling is “far from mentally incompetent.”
Shelly Sterling opened bidding with a deadline this week and reached agreement with Ballmer on Thursday. Ballmer was the highest bigger by “several hundred million” dollars according to reports and the deal that would be worth $2 billion — nearly four times the NBA franchise record sale of $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this year — went directly to the NBA Board of Governors.
“I love basketball,” Ballmer said in a statement. “And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win — and win big — in Los Angeles. LA is one of the world’s great cities — a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness. I am confident that the Clippers will, in the coming years, become an even bigger part of the community. I thank Shelly Sterling for her willingness to entrust the Clippers franchise to me, and I am grateful to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his colleagues for working collaboratively with me throughout this process.”
Donald Sterling purchased the Clippers for $12 million in 1981. The sale is subject to a 30-percent one-time tax when the $2 billion transaction is executed.
“I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner,” Shelly Sterling said in a statement. “We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premier NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”
With the sale of the Bucks earlier this year, former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) profited $532 million. He purchased the franchise in 1985 for $18 million.