The news came following weeks of speculation on the fate of the team, after owner Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA following the emergence of an audio tape in which Sterling is heard making racist remarks.
Both Ballmer and Donald Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, who’s been handling the sale of the team, which she owns through a family trust, released statements confirming they’d reached a deal for the former Microsoft executive to buy the NBA franchise.
Shelly said that she’d signed a binding contract for Ballmer to buy the team. “I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner,” Shelly said in a statement. “We have worked for 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 added: “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. LA is one of the world’s great cities — a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness. I am confident that the Clippers will in the coming years become an even bigger part of the community. I thank Shelly Sterling for her willingness to entrust the Clippers franchise to me, and I am grateful to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his colleagues for working collaboratively with me throughout this process.”
Indeed, Ballmer’s purchase still has to be approved by the NBA, but if the sale goes through he will have paid the highest-ever price for an NBA team. The previous record was set last month with the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million. Donald bought the Clippers in 1981 for $13.5 million.
On Friday, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement: “Commissioner Silver has consistently said the preferred outcome to the Clippers proceeding would be a voluntary sale of the team. Shelly Sterling advised the NBA last night that an agreement had been reached with Steve Ballmer, and the NBA Advisory/Finance Committee met via conference call this morning to discuss these developments.
“We await the submission of necessary documentation from Mrs. Sterling. In the meantime, the June 3 special meeting of the NBA Board of Governors remains as scheduled,” he confirmed.