The sale of the Clippers continued on its bizarre journey late Thursday night when representatives of co-owner Shelly Sterling sent out a media release that the Sterling family trust has agreed to sell the team to former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
Shelly Sterling asserted that she is acting as the sole trustee, with no mention of Donald Sterling, who bought the team three decades ago.
Donald Sterling’s lawyers have asserted that he needs a final sign-off before the team can be sold. However, according to two media reports, Shelly Sterling has said her husband was not capable of making the decision to sell the team. The Times has not verified that report.
“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 premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”
On Thursday, The Times reported that Ballmer won the bidding process and the negotiated sale will now move to the NBA for approval. There is currently a Tuesday meeting scheduled for NBA owners in New York to determine if the Sterlings should be forced to sell the franchise.
“I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Ballmer said in the statement.
“I love basketball. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win -- and win big -- in Los Angeles. L.A. 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.”
The trust statement said that Greenberg Glusker served as counsel to Shelly Sterling and BofA Merrill Lynch acted as financial advisor.
Ballmer bid higher than competitors that included Los Angeles-based investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh and a group that included David Geffen and executives from the Guggenheim Group, the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Geffen group offered $1.6 billion and the Ressler-Karsh group offered $1.2 billion. Those offers were rejected, according to several people involved in the negotiations who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the bidding.
The sale price would be almost four times the previous NBA franchise high: the $550 million paid earlier this month for the Milwaukee Bucks. It would be the second-highest price ever paid for a sports team in North America. The Dodgers sold in 2012 for $2.1 billion.
Donald Sterling agreed last week to allow his wife to conduct a sale of the team. The process was rushed to beat a Tuesday deadline, when NBA owners are scheduled to meet to decide whether to strip the Sterlings of their ownership after Donald Sterling insulted African Americans in an audio recording that was leaked by the celebrity website TMZ.
Days after the recording was released, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hit Donald Sterling with a $2.5-million fine, a lifetime ban from the league and called on the other owners to force him to sell the team he bought in 1981 for $12.5 million.