Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer reached an agreement with Shelly Sterling late Thursday night to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. The astronomical deal is still awaiting league approval and other legal matters, but would make the Clippers one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world.
Shelly Sterling said in a statement, “I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner. We have worked 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”
Ballmer, who is worth $20.3 billion according to Forbes, reportedly outbid groups led by music mogul David Geffen and investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh.
The amount of money is even more staggering considering the fact that Donald Sterling originally purchased the team in 1981 for $12.5 million.
But how did the Clippers become so valuable? How did the Clippers, who have zero championships and one of the worst winning percentages as a franchise in NBA history, cause such a bidding war among billionaires?
Well, it helps that the team has been a real championship contender in the brutal western conference. It also helps that the team has marketable stars like point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin, who seem to appear at least once per commercial break during NBA games. But that can’t be the reason, can it? I mean, other teams can match that formula (The Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors all come to mind), but I don’t think those teams would sell for as much.
There is a certain status that comes with being the owner of a team. The ability to sit courtside and directly interact with players can undoubtedly feed someone’s ego. In the recent weeks, I have heard being an owner of a team likened to being a part of an exclusive country club, and it is true. There are only 30 NBA teams, and the turnover rate among owners is very slow.
Donald Sterling’s remarks about black people forced the NBA’s hand and opened up a golden opportunity for a billionaire to join the exclusive club of owners, in the media mecca of Los Angeles on top of that. This was a rare occurrence, and Ballmer and others sought to capitalize on the opportunity.
Maybe the distinction of being the one to replace a despised figure like Donald Sterling played a role in the bidding. However, we are not in the clear just yet, because if anyone would turn down billions just to spite the NBA and muddy up the process, it would be Donald Sterling.
What do you think about the Clippers sale? Let us know in the comment section.