May 29, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT
UPDATE: Shelly Sterling has confirmed the sale through a press release. In it is the statement she could do that as the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, confirming that she had Donald to sell the team.
“I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner,” she said in a released statement. “We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”
Steve Ballmer also released a statement:
“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. 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.”
7:10 pm: I have to start here: Do not assume just because an agreement was reached and papers signed that this is a done deal. Remember that Donald Sterling has talked about “fighting to the bloody end.” He could still attempt to kill the whole thing out of spite (or concerns about capital gains taxes).
But Donald told his wife Shelly Sterling to go ahead and find a buyer for the team, and she seems to have done that:
NBC has confirmed with a source close to the negotiations that a deal was signed between the Sterling Family Trust and former Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer to buy the Clippers for $2 billion. That document is now being sent on to the NBA league office for review (and to start the approval process).
This news was broken by the Los Angeles Times and since confirmed. The Times had details on the other bidders.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said the Geffen group bid $1.6 billion and Ressler at $1.2 billion.
David Geffen has now said to ESPN that his group — with Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey — have pulled out of the biding.
If $2 billion turns out the be the final sale price, that figure would blow the previous NBA franchise sale price record — $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks just a few weeks ago — out of the water.
The NBA has reportedly said that if a completed sale agreement was in place before the Board of Governors meeting next Tuesday they likely would postpone the vote. At that meeting the other owners would conduct a hearing then vote on whether to strip Sterling of his ownership of the franchise in response to the backlash that followed his prejudiced comments on a recording released to TMZ, plus later in a CNN interview.
Having the Sterlings sell the Clippers is a cleaner process for the NBA.
Part of the sale agreement is that Ballmer not move the team to Seattle. Plus the Clippers have nine years left on their lease with Staples Center. Also, financially he would devalue the franchise considerably moving it out of the Los Angeles market, especially with the team due for a new television deal, one that is expected to lead to a big bidding war.
It sounds like a good deal… yet there is Donald Sterling lurking.
Shelly Sterling had Donald declared mentally incapacitated, making her the sole trustee and able to act to sell the team as she saw fit.
Donald said in recent days through his attorney (and again today as news of the Ballmer sale started to leak) that the letter he gave his wife is not binding and he may not sign off on the sale. While Donald and Shelly Sterling each own half of the Clippers through a trust, Donald is the recognized primary owner by the league under its constitution.
How will Donald feel with $2 billion on the table?
Donald Sterling’s lawyer was seen going to meet with Donald and told the L.A. Times on the way into the house he is not sure Sterling will sign off on the sale. He added Sterling doesn’t care about the money.
Ballmer would need to be approved by the NBA’s other owners, but that likely would not be much of a hurdle.
Ballmer was part of Steve Hansen’s Seattle group that almost bought the Kings last season. He has long been someone David Stern, and now Adam Silver, have wanted to bring into the league.
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