The sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has formally taken place and the NBA’s Board of Governors has already given its official approval of the transfer, the league announced (hat tip to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register on Twitter). The news appears to bring an end to a saga that began when recordings of racially charged remarks from longtime Clippers owner Donald Sterling surfaced shortly after the playoffs began, though Sterling still has lawsuits pending against the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver. Ballmer is buying the team for a record price of $2 billion.
“I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Ballmer said in a statement that the Clippers released on their website. “Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA.”
Attorneys for Sterling had anticipated that a California judge could at any time issue a final order that affirmed that Sterling’s wife, Shelly, had the authority to strike a deal with Ballmer to sell the team, as she did in May. The judge had ruled in his preliminary decision that the sale could go through even if Donald Sterling were to appeal.
The Board of Governors interviewed Ballmer on July 15th, and voted unanimously last week to approve him as owner, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (All Twitter links). That gave Ballmer the opportunity to close on the sale whenever he became comfortable with the legal situation surrounding it, Shelburne writes. Ballmer had asked for a written order from a judge affirming Shelly Sterling’s right to sell as part of his original purchase agreement with her, and Ballmer has received that order, Shelburne also tweets. The judge has yet to issue a final order in the case, but Ballmer is apparently satisfied with the written order he has in hand, Shelburne adds (on Twitter).
Donald Sterling’s battle to hang on to ownership of the team cast doubt on the willingness of Doc Rivers to continue as coach and president of basketball operations, but Rivers, in the team’s statement, expressed his commitment to the club in the wake of today’s news
“This is an amazing new day in Clippers history,” Rivers said. “I couldn’t be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization. I am already inspired by Steve’s passion for the game, his love of competition and desire to win the right way and I know our players and fans are going to be inspired as well.”
Clippers players Chris Paul and Matt Barnes as late as last month were publicly discussing the notion that they would boycott until Donald Sterling was removed as owner. Still, Silver won widespread praise for the lifetime ban and $2.5MM fine he imposed on the embattled owner in April. That maneuver nonetheless didn’t wrest control of the team from Donald Sterling, who originally purchased the franchise in 1981.
Shelly Sterling reportedly negotiated the right to retain up to 10% of the team that would be controlled by a charitable foundation on which she would serve as chair as part of her deal with Ballmer, but it’s not clear whether she exercised that right.