Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer won a frenetic bidding war for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, with his$2-billion offer setting a record price for an NBA team, The Times has learned.
Ballmer, who was chief executive of Microsoft for 14 years, was chosen over 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, according to three individuals familiar with the negotiations.
One of the individuals with knowledge of the negotiations said the Geffen group bid $1.6 billion and Ressler at $1.2 billion.
The sale price is almost four times the highest previous NBA franchise sale price — the $550 million paid earlier this month for the Milwaukee Bucks. It is second only to the Dodgers’ 2012 sale for $2.1 billion as the highest price for any sports team in North America.
The prospective sale by Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling comes five days ahead of an NBA hearing to oust her family from ownership following a controversy in which Donald Sterling insulted African-Americans in a secret audio recording.
The tentative deal still must receive the blessing of her husband, Donald Sterling, who has waxed and waned on the question of whether he would allow his wife to sell the team he has controlled for more than three decades.
The deal also needs the eventual approval of 29 other NBA owners, but is expected to clear that hurdle as long as Ballmer reaffirms his pledge to keep the team in Los Angeles and not move it to Seattle, where he lives.
Ballmer, 58, left the software giant in February and has an estimated net worth of $20 billion. Unlike other bidders, he did not immediately seek out partners for the purchase of the Clippers.
Ballmer last year joined a group, led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, to bid on the Sacramento Kings, intending to move the team to Seattle. NBA owners voted to reject the proposed move.
The businessman said in a recent interview that he had no intention of moving the Clippers. He said that the high valuations for the team only made sense in Los Angeles — the second biggest media market in the country.