Wednesday, August 13
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Steve Ballmer finally has an NBA outlet for his rah-rah displays of emotion as the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The former Microsoft CEO's record $2 billion purchase of the team was confirmed by a Los Angeles judge on Tuesday, clearing the way for the avid pickup basketball player to take over the team from Donald Sterling, who unsuccessfully fought his estranged wife over the sale.
The sale achieves Ballmer's longtime goal of owning a team. He made a bid last year before owners chose to keep the Kings in Sacramento, rather than allow them to be sold to a group that included Ballmer and moved to Seattle.
Now the man with the booming voice and energetic high-fives, who was Microsoft's biggest booster, has got his own team to share with his wife and three sons.
"We're a family that likes basketball," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Ballmer, who lives in the Seattle area, said he hopes to attend a lot of Clippers games next season. He said interim CEO Dick Parsons has agreed to stay on for the time being.
"That gives me a chance to figure this all out," he said.
The sale ousted Donald Sterling as the NBA's longest-tenured owner. He bought the team in 1981 for $12 million and presided over decades of losing seasons before battling his estranged wife in probate court to hold on to his most prized asset.
Adam Streisand, Ballmer's attorney, said Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas signed the order authorizing the sale even if Donald Sterling's attorneys filed an appeal, which they did late Tuesday.
"Donald Sterling's petitions are patently frivolous," said Pierce O'Donnell, Shelly's attorney. "Donald's request for relief is moot."
O'Donnell said his side filed an opposition urging denial of the petitions. He said the Sterling Family Trust received money from the sale earlier Tuesday.
Donald Sterling's attorneys weren't available to comment.
The NBA Board of Governors had previously approved the deal.
"Really excited — in a pretty hardcore way — to continue the path to making the Clippers a better and better basketball team, and a better and better citizen of the Los Angeles community," Ballmer told the AP.
The sale was welcome news to All-Star power forward Blake Griffin.
"I look forward to having Mr. Ballmer as the owner and continuing our pursuit of a championship," he said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he had urged Donald Sterling to sell the team after a recording surfaced in April of the owner scolding his girlfriend for bringing black men to Clippers games, and he welcomed Ballmer.
"We have somebody who's going to keep the team here, who has the resources to continue to build the Clippers," the mayor said.
Shelly Sterling lamented losing the team, but Ballmer gifted her with the title of "owner emeritus." She will receive two floor seats, 10 other seats and parking at Staples Center for games.
"I am confident that Steve will bring the city a championship team in the very near future," she said.
Ballmer takes over what could be a powerhouse team next season, led by coach Doc Rivers. By agreeing to the record purchase price, he has already proven he is willing to spend in contrast to the famously frugal Sterling, long regarded as the worst owner in the NBA.
"The topic of conversation with Doc earlier was to focus in on what does it take and how can I help support him in achieving our mutual mission and in a pretty intense way continue to improve, be tenacious," Ballmer said. "If we do all that, good things will come our way."
Ballmer said he wants to put the Sterling controversy in the past and focus the team on being "a great citizen in the community for a diverse set of folks," including the NBA's predominantly black players.
"We're going to do our best on that," he said. "I know that is high on Doc's list, it's high on my list to do that. We also have to be a phenomenal basketball team, play really well as a team and have great success on court. We're going to work on all those things."
After the Sterling audio became public, the NBA banned him for life and fined him $2.5 million.
Sterling was apologetic, but his mea culpa backfired when he criticized Lakers great Magic Johnson, who had been photographed with Sterling's girlfriend, as a bad role model for kids because he had HIV. The 80-year-old real estate mogul was roundly condemned around the league.
With the NBA threatening to seize the team and auction it, Sterling initially gave his wife of 58 years permission to negotiate a sale but then refused to sign the Ballmer deal. He said he would sue the league instead and then revoked the trust, which his lawyers said effectively killed the deal.
Shelly Sterling removed Donald as a trustee after doctors found he had symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
Streisand said even if Donald Sterling seeks an emergency order directing the judge to vacate his order, the attorney is confident an appellate court would agree that Levanas made the correct decision.
AP Business Writer Ryan Nakashima and AP Writers Matt Hamilton and Tami Abdollah contributed to this report.