BY Art Thiel 02:51PM 05/25/2014

Report: Ballmer, Shelly Sterling to talk Clips sale

Ex-Microsoft owner said he wants to be NBA owner, and if it’s outside Seattle, “so be it.” TMZ reported Sunday he is meeting with Shelly Sterling to talk about buying the LA Clippers.

Steve Ballmer was reported to be meeting Sunday with Shelly Sterling at her Malibu mansion to talk about the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to the former Microsoft CEO, according to TMZ.com.

While Ballmer was active in pursuit of an NBA team for Seattle a year ago, he told the Wall Street Journal last week that he was still interested in being an NBA owner, but if the team wasn’t in Seattle, “so be it.” He said moving Clippers out of Los Angeles would be “value destructive.”

Reports last week said that Donald Sterling, the controlling owner of the Clippers, was planning to let his wife sell the club after the NBA made clear it would force Sterling to divest the team when his racist remarks became public and provoked a lifetime ban from the NBA.

TMZ, which broke the original story on Sterling’s tape-recorded remarks that ignited the furor, reported that Shelly Sterling wants to sell on her terms, rather than a forced sale, and has been in private talks with NBA commissioner Adam to see if the sale can be done voluntarily.

Silver and Ballmer sat next to each other for a Clippers playoff game at Staples Center.

Silver’s predecessor, David Stern, was not shy in his eagerness to have Ballmer join the NBA. But at the time, Ballmer had a day job at Microsoft that kept him busy.

He did partner with Seattle native Chris Hansen in a bid to relocate the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle. The plan was to have the Kings play in KeyArena for two seasons while Hansen built a $500 million basketball/hockey arena in SoDo.

But after the move was rejected a year ago by a vote of NBA, Hansen’s momentum stalled, Ballmer was ousted as Microsoft CEO and Mayor Mike McGinn, Hansen’s chief political ally, lost his bid for re-election. The project’s location has attracted opposition that has challenged the draft environmental review of the project, which will not be completed until September at the earliest.

With no obvious team that might be relocated to Seattle, the hopes for a return of the Sonics seem to rest with expansion. But Silver, since he succeeded Stern Feb. 1, has given no indication of interest in expansion, at least not until a new TV rights-fee deal is negotiated. The current deals expire after the 2015-16 season.

A number of high-profile celebrities have been mentioned as potential purchasers of the Clippers, a woebegone franchise that has finally become competitively respectable. The recent sale of the Milwaukee Bucks fetched $550 million, $15 million more than the Kings were sold for a year ago.

Rumors keep moving up the price of Clippers to nearly $1 billion, and a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, are said to be interested. But they have all been part of groups. Ballmer, still Microsoft’s largest shareholder and said by Forbes to be worth $20 billion, might be the only person who could write a check for any amount immediately, and not blink.

The NBA is eager to avoid a publicly protracted fight over removing Sterling. Ballmer could be the quickest — and richest — way out of a problem the NBA wants behind it.

According to a source who is familiar with Ballmer, a Detroit-area native, his desire to remain in Seattle has lessened after his ouster from the company he helped grow into a software colossus. When Ballmer last August said he would retire (read: pushed out) Microsoft shares went up 10 percent.


YourThoughts

  • Gary

    No great surprise, anyone who thinks the NBA is coming back anytime soon is living a pipe dream. I keep reading all these wild scenarios here about how we might score a team but the fact remains there is no good reason for them to return. The NBA has already shown they do not want to move any teams and they have the perfect leverage with us. Ballmer was the one with the deep pockets and now he is leaving to L.A……. NHL anyone? at least they have a interest but do we?

    • art thiel

      Seattle right now is more valuable to the NBA vacant than occupied. As with LA and the NFL.

      • Edgar Martinez

        Well, if Ballmer ends up buying the Clips and leaving them there, it probably would end the chances of us getting a team. Unless Hansen finds another partner.

        • Manny

          Ha, if you think that you don’t understand the financials of Hansen and Ballmer. A lot of people are confusing net work of an individual with how much $$$ they’d actually put into a team. It’s not a positive development, but nor is the sky falling on our chances.

          • Gary

            Perhaps you can explain the financial dynamics of the Hansen/Ballmer partnership and the path to the NBA return?

  • jafabian

    I question if the Lakers are tired of sharing the Staples Center with the Clippers and wouldn’t mind seeing them leave. I could also see the Sterling’s telling the NBA if they want them out so bad to let them sell the club to whomever they want. I highly doubt the Clippers will be leaving the LA market though. I say doubt because if there’s anything I’ve learned from the ongoing saga to bring the NBA back to Seattle it’s to never take anything at face value in regards to it. It is what it is.

    If Ballmer becomes the Clippers owner and keeps the team there that will put Chris Hansen’s plans on the backburner. He’ll have to find somone to replace Ballmer in his group. That could be when the NHL steps in with their own arena bid and group. But again, can’t take that at face value either.

    • art thiel

      The Lakers really don’t have a play here. Staples was built to house both teams, with NBA approval. Both teams have sold-out seasons, and Clippers ball is much better, thanks to Stern interrupitng Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers and sending him to the Clippers.

      But you’re right, Hansen needs a new partner. Now will be as big as Ballmer, but there’s still a lot of wealth here. But the project seems inert. Hansen has to do a serious re-think whether he wants to go to the trouble for hockey. Not his game.

      • Manny

        And please people, stop confusing net worth with what a person is going to actually put into a team. There is a lot of wealth here. If Ballmer buys the Clippers it’s generally a negative development. But it really changes nothing. We are not getting a NBA team this year or probably next. But in the end we will, it’s only a question of how soon.

  • Jeff Shope

    No way is ballmer dumb enough to buy the clippers and move them from top market to smaller socialist run seattle It ain t happening why go through that buy the clippers and run it right while lakers are down and he will own that market pretty simple

    • jafabian

      The same was said about moving the Sonics to OKC.

      • Jared S.

        In this case, though we don’t have a commissioner with an irrational hatred of the city where the team in question plays, nor any pretext (i.e. arena issues) for him to act on that petty grudge.

      • Jeff Shope

        um no the clippers have a top flight arena and top market with no political bs hoops to jump through very different from seattle when sonics left and its even worse now

  • PokeyPuffy

    Good for Ballmer, sitting next to the commish is the gold standard in the NBA feifdom, (unless things have changed drastically since Sterno). This is the relationship-building Sonics front man Hansen needed to accomplish but didn’t, maybe he was too busy worrying about clearing our SEPA process.

    Kissing the ring, stroking the ego, paying homage, good old fashioned brown nosing. That is what sports commissioners look for in a business partner.

  • notaboomer

    the nba is a joke. the refs and their bogus calls prove it. it’s really unwatchable.