It’s going to take some time before this becomes official as Donald Sterling isn’t going down without a fight, but as of now the Los Angeles Clippers have been sold by Shelly Sterling to Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who has strong ties to the city of Seattle, and the $2 billion deal should be approved by the NBA and at least 75% of the other team owners.
With the sale, the Clippers become the most valuable NBA franchise according to sale price, coming in way ahead of the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers, both valued at $1.4 billion. The Clippers were valued by Forbes at $575 million at the time of the sale, and what’s interesting is that they come with hardly any assets except for their training facility in Playa Vista. The Los Angeles Dodgers were sold for $2.15 billion, in a deal that included land, parking lots and TV deals. The Milwaukee Bucks were sold for only $550 million earlier this year.
One of the two big questions remaining is whether or not Ballmer, who was part of the effort to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle last year, will move the team. Ballmer himself has indicated he has no plan of doing such a thing because it would be destructive to the team’s value. Ballmer, valued at $20.3 billion, is the richest owner in North American sports, surpassing his former boss, Paul Allen, who owns the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks.
Unlike other bidders, Ballmer didn’t look for partners in the bid, beating groups that included the group led by David Geffen and another by Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh, bidding $1.6 billion and $1.2 billion respectively. On a $2 billion sale, the Sterlings would pay approximately $662 million in capital gains taxes, according to accountant Robert Raiola.
Now the other question has to do with Donald Sterling. Shelly Sterling became the sole trustee of the Sterling family trust very recently as experts found that her estranged husband to be mentally incapacitated; the rules of the trust did not require a court hearing first to declare Donald Sterling, 80, incapacitated. This gave Shelly Sterling the rights to negotiate with Ballmer on her own.
But that is being disputed by Donald Sterling and his lawyers. After saying he his handing control of the sale to his wife, he is now trying to keep his team. The NBA has been said to have prepared a legal wall that will block any attempt for Donald Sterling to remain in control. His lawyers have said that he has not signed off on the deal, and that there can be no deal without him putting his name to paper.