Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling is mounting a hurried sale of the team she and her husband have owned for 33 years and could name a prospective new owner of the NBA franchise by the end of the week, a person familiar with the situation said.
The co-founder of investment bank Guggenheim Partners and its president are helping billionaire media executive David Geffen put together a group to bid on the Los Angeles Clippers.
Guggenheim said in a statement on Wednesday that co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Walter and President Todd Boehly are joining Geffen's existing group of bidders, which includes television icon Oprah Winfrey and Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison.
Clippers owner Donald Sterling, banned from the National Basketball Association for racist remarks, has handed controlling interest in his team to his wife Shelly Sterling, the co-owner. She began negotiating with the league to sell the club, Reuters reported on Friday, citing sources.
Guggenheim said in a statement that the two top executives were teaming up with Geffen to put together a bid, but that the bank itself was not officially involved in the process.
"Guggenheim is not involved in any way," a spokesman wrote in an e-mail. "Mark Walter and Todd Boehly are working with David Geffen and others to put together a bid to buy the Clippers."
Bids are due at 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, according to a person with knowledge of the bidding process. A decision could be made by the end of the week.
In 2012, Walter headed a group including basketball great Magic Johnson that bought the LA Dodgers baseball team for $2.15 billion. Johnson has said he would likely join the bid if his Guggenheim partners made an offer.
Ressler met with Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling at a Malibu restaurant last weekend to discuss a potential bid, according to the source with knowledge of the bidding process.
Representatives for Ballmer and Ressler could not be reached immediately.
Sterling is rushing to sell the team long headed by her husband, Donald, in an attempt to beat a deadline of next Tuesday, when owners of the 30 pro basketball teams will be asked to strip control of the team from both of the Sterlings, after Donald Sterling’s racially-charged remarks about blacks.
The developments in the NBA’s biggest ownership crisis came on the same day that a defiant Sterling lashed out at what he called the league’s “illegal termination process.” In a cover letter to the 29-page document, obtained by The Times, Sterling said he had already received offers “in excess of $2.5 billion” for his team. In his response, he criticized the NBA for insisting on his ouster for what he deemed a single illegally-recorded conversation of what he deemed “a lover’s quarrel.”
The series of events suggested a potentially quick resolution to a controversy that appeared as if it might drag on for months or more, though people familiar with the situation cautioned that the sale is far from complete and must be approved by the NBA’s other owners.
The magnitude of the Clippers deal and the field of prospective owners had begun to crystallize Tuesday, with one likely bidder dismissing the $2.5 billion price tag but saying the team would likely go for more than $1 billion. That would be the highest sale price in NBA history, topping the $550 million theMilwaukee Bucks were sold for in April.
One new buyers alliance already came together in recent days when Chicago-based Guggenheim Partners, which bought the Dodgers two years ago for more than $2 billion, agreed to work with a trio of billionaires who previously said they would launch their own bid for the Clippers — Oracle software co-founder Larry Ellison, entertainment magnate David Geffen and mega-entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey.
Another partnership included three principals who have significant ties to major league sports — Tony Ressler, the Los Angeles-based co-founder of the investment firm Ares Management and a minority owner of baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers; Bruce Karsh, co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management and a minority owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and Grant Hill, a one-time NBA all-star who finished his career with the Clippers.
Also expected to bid for the team after meeting with Shelly Sterling on Sunday is Steve Ballmer, who stepped down as chief executive of Microsoft in February after leading the software company for 14 years.
Ballmer said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that, if he succeeded in his new bid, he would not attempt to move the Clippers. He said the team would lose much of its value by leaving L.A.