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Report: Magic Johnson wants to buy the Clippers from Donald Sterling

Apr 28, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

The initial alleged Donald Sterling tape centered around a fight a person believed to be the Clippers owner was having with his girlfriend. The source of the dispute? Of all things, a photo posted to Instagram of her and Magic Johnson.

That won’t be the last you hear of Johnson in this controversy.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Magic Johnson and his billionaire backers, the Guggenheim Partners, want a chance to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources told Yahoo Sports. “Magic’s absolutely interested,” one source closely connected to Johnson’s business interests told Yahoo Sports on Sunday night.

Magic Johnson and Guggenheim had been aggressive in pursuing a purchase of the Los Angeles Lakers – only to have the Buss family make clear to them the franchise isn’t for sale, sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Dodgers group is serious about owning an NBA team, and the league knows it. Together, they arranged for Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners to purchase the WNBA’s cash-strapped Los Angeles Sparks in February. The league office needed someone to spare it the embarrassment of the WNBA’s flagship franchise folding, and Magic and Guggenheim bailed it out. This hadn’t been born out of a sense of benevolence, but rather a pragmatic move to deeper ingratiate themselves with the NBA.

Magic Johnson and partners buying the Clippers would be better for everyone involved.

  • It would be better for the Clippers, who’d have an owner with human decency and a greater capability of building a quality organization.
  • It would be better for Johnson, who clearly wants to own an NBA team.
  • It would be better for Sterling, who would get a massive payout and escape public scrutiny, maybe even allowing time to repair his image.
  • It would be better for the NBA, which would rid itself of a black eye and liability and welcome a beloved former superstar back into a formal role.

But the NBA is not a communist state that can unilaterally imposed measures to achieve the greater good. NBA Commission Adam Silver’s power is limited by the league’s constitution.

Sterling, perhaps pushed by Silver and the other owners, might choose to sell the team. In the face of mounting public criticism, maybe even Sterling becomes embarrassed enough to bow out. Most people would see getting denounced by the president of the United States as a wakeup call.

Nobody has ever mistaken Sterling for most people, though. Besides, selling isn’t in his nature. In real estate, he keeps his properties rather than flipping them.

And even if Sterling does sell the Clippers, Johnson and his partners would probably need to submit the highest bid. Sterling being persuaded to sell is one thing. Sterling being persuaded to sell and leave money on the table is another.

And excuse me if this doesn’t make Johnson look a little opportunistic. He’s not really a victim in this any more than all minorities are victims of people like Sterling is alleged to be. Johnson’s name just happened to get mentioned in the tape because of an Instagram photo.

But if he can play this into an opening to buy the team, it sounds like he would.

Appearing on ABC’s pregame show yesterday, Johnson said of Sterling: “He shouldn’t own a team anymore. And he should stand up and say, ‘I don’t want to own a team anymore.’”

I agree with Johnson’s sentiment, and I’m sure most do. It’s just not so simple, and I don’t think Johnson escalating the public-relations battle against Sterling while also angling to buy the team is productive.

  1. big64d - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    Does this mean Donald Sterling wont receive his second NAACP award?

  2. marcusfitzhugh - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    The video accompanying the article is wrong and $1B for the Clippers is stupid beyond belief. In January of this year, Forbes ran an article that listed the value of each NBA club. The New York Knicks led the NBA at S1.4 Billiion followed closely by the Lakers at $1.35 Billion. Forbes said the Clippers were worth $575 million. Their owner’s comments didn’t increase the value of the club, so why would anyone pay $1B for the club??? That’s 74% MORE than the Clippers were worth BEFORE Sterling devalued the club. Is the point to REWARD Sterling for his comments? And before someone makes a stupid comment about the Clippers being in the playoffs, that doesn’t matter. It’s the value of the team, not how well they play. If someone pays Sterling $1B, logic says the owners of the other 28 clubs should all start making racist comments – its a great money maker.

    I wonder if I put a sign in front of my house that says “I HATE WHITE PEOPLE”, if my neighbors will buy me out for some outrageous price. I don’t hate white people, but for a couple of million, trust me, it’s an option.

    • asimonetti88 - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:45 PM

      Forbes listed the Bucks at $405 million, and they recently sold for $550 million. The Forbes valuations are not the end all be all. They’re just estimates, and often wrong. The Clippers, like any other club, are worth what someone will pay for them. If someone pays $1 billion for them, they are worth $1 billion. It’s ludicrous to think that if the Bucks are worth $550 million, the Clippers are only worth $575 million. They play in one of the largest markets in the NBA. The only thing devaluing the Clippers’ brand is Sterling. Once he is removed from the situation, they will no longer be devalued.

      • Kevin S. - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:17 PM

        They’re not only often wrong, they consistently under-estimate the sale price. Now, part of that is the winner’s curse – the bidding process almost self-selects the bidder with the most optimistic projection of the franchise profitability, and there’s a novelty factor that bidders factor into their prices that has nothing to do with the actual franchise valuation, but Forbes is still an outsider trying to make guesstimates without access to the books of private corporations. The Los Angeles Dodgers had to be sold because they were choking in bankruptcy, and they still fetched $2 billion despite Frank McCourt seemingly having no leverage whatsoever. Donald Sterling is incapable of feeling shame, and he has enough Eff You money that he really can’t be pressured into selling on somebody else’s terms.

      • marcusfitzhugh - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:20 PM

        In business, it’s what you earn, not where you are physically located. The Clippers play in one of the largest markets, but the LA market means nothing because no one is buying the Clippers’ product. The Clippers earned a grand total of $3.5M more than the Bucks last year. The problem with the Clippers is they are in the Laker’s market. The Lakers earned five dollars for every dollars the Clippers earned. Based on ticket sales and prices, people would rather pay to watch the Lakers lose than see the Clippers win. This is how bad it is for the Clippers – Who has the bigger market, the Clippers or Rockets? So then why do the Rockets have 75% more revenue and over 5 times as much in earnings??? Why does small market OKC have more revenue and over twice the earnings? The Lakers own the LA market.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:23 PM

        Who “owns” the L.A. market could change if the Lakers remain abysmal and the Clippers highly competitive. Or, the Clippers could gain a bigger market share like the Mets did when they were competitive. Winning changes everything, as does losing.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:24 PM

        Should read “like the Mets did in NY…”

      • Kevin S. - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        Exactly, and having Magic Johnson as the new face of the franchise while they’re contending and the Lakers are wallowing in a rebuild is one of the few things that could swing the LA market the Clippers’ way.

  3. onbucky96 - Apr 28, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    Sterling is a biggot, whether he and his family deny it. That being said, I hope the outrage is legit. Not just hot air so Magic can buy the team for less than market value.

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 28, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      Why don’t you want Magic to buy the team for less than market value? Are you some kinda Communist? Sarcasm intended.

  4. spytdi - Apr 29, 2014 at 12:28 AM

    Magic put the chick up to the recorded phone call questioning so he could have a shot. Why has she not been thrown under the bus for selling a recorded private conversation to the media?

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