Steve Ballmer Officially New Owner of Clippers; NBA Sues Sterling

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and NBA commissioner Adam Silver at a Los Angeles Clippers game on May 11, 2014. (NOEL VASQUEZ/GC IMAGES)
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and NBA commissioner Adam Silver at a Los Angeles Clippers game on May 11, 2014. (NOEL VASQUEZ/GC IMAGES)

The Los Angeles Clippers officially have a new owner.

Steve Ballmer’s bid to purchase the Clippers closed Tuesday after the entry of an order by a California court confirmed the authority of Shelly Sterling to sell the team on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, the league announced.

Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO, bid $2 billion for the Clippers on May 29, but wasn’t able to complete the sale until Tuesday’s written court order affirmed Shelly Sterling’s authority to sell the franchise without the consent of her husband, Donald Sterling.

“It’s very, very exciting. I’m a basketball nut,” Ballmer said in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “I’ve got time. I love Los Angeles. I love Seattle, too, which is where we have our home. But the notion of spending a lot of time in Los Angeles has been exciting to me for years. The community down there is great. I look forward to supporting community, the fanbase, the staff, Doc [Rivers, ] and the players to take this thing to higher heights.”

Ballmer acknowledged there were some frustrating moments while the sale of the franchise was delayed by court proceedings, but said he remained confident he would be able to complete it in the end.

“My job has been to complete the deal and there was a lot of people, including me, working on it for a long time,” Ballmer said. “Was I kind of itchy? Sure. But I knew the only thing I could do or should do was complete the final deal and we were able to do that this morning.”

The NBA’s board of governors interviewed Ballmer on July 15, then took a vote electronically last week in which he was unanimously approved as an owner, sources told Shelburne.

Ballmer decided he would complete the sale as soon as Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas’ written order came in, which occurred at 11:30 a.m. ET Tuesday.

“We were ready,” Adam Streisand, Ballmer’s attorney, said. “Within minutes, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered.”

Ballmer plans to travel to Los Angeles later this week and have dinner with the team, then meet with Clippers employees and fans at an event next Monday.

Ballmer’s takeover of the Clippers follows weeks of legal tussling between Shelly and Donald Sterling, the 80-year-old billionaire whom the NBA banned earlier this year for making offensive remarks about blacks. Donald Sterling’s attorneys are still expected to appeal the sale, sources told Shelburne.

The NBA, meanwhile, has filed a counterclaim in federal court against Donald Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust, saying he caused “devastating and incalculable harm” to the league. The counterclaim was in response to an antitrust lawsuit Donald Sterling filed against the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver seeking $1 billion in damages in June.

Ballmer was one of at least six bidders to express serious interest in owning the Clippers, who previously were bought in 1981 for $12.5 million by Donald Sterling. The three highest bids were $1.2 billion from a group including former NBA player Grant Hill and Los Angeles businessmen Bruce Karsh and Tony Ressler, $1.6 billion from a group fronted by music mogul David Geffen, and $2 billion from Ballmer.

Shelly Sterling signed an agreement to sell the team to Ballmer on May 29, then was forced to secure a court order to confirm her authority as sole trustee to go ahead with the sale.

“I am thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner,” said Shelly Sterling, who as part of the deal was given the title of “Clippers Number One Fan” and “owner emeritus.” “I am happy for the team, the fans, the sponsors and the city of Los Angeles.”

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