The Clippers will be up for sale soon enough, whether the NBA controls the process or whether the Sterlings are allowed to do so in what appears to be an increasingly less likely scenario.
There will be a long line of suitors for the team, all of whom will be putting together potential ownership groups willing to pay over $1 billion (with a ‘b’) for L.A.’s historically junior franchise.
But image will play in important role in the group the league chooses, as they’ll want to move in a positive direction following the Sterling disaster. And for that reason, a group headed by a well-respected former player may have an edge in the bidding process.
From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
Former NBA All-Star Grant Hill has partnered with billionaire investors and longtime Southern California residents Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh to form an ownership group to bid on the Los Angeles Clippers when they are officially put up for sale, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that Hill’s group is already regarded by league officials as a viable contender for the Clippers in what is forecast to be a highly competitive auction when the franchise finally hits the open market. One industry source told ESPN.com this week that the bidding could start as high as the $1.5 billion range. …
Hill is just completing his first season in retirement after a 19-year career that featured seven All-Star appearances. Ressler is the co-founder of Ares Management and a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. Karsh is president and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management and currently serves a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors.
Magic Johnson is another person who would similarly meet the positive image criteria, but with easily more than 10 groups likely to be interested, that in itself won’t be enough to win the right to purchase the Clippers.
Since the Sterlings are being forced to sell, the league will almost certainly need to ensure that the group it chooses is also the highest bidder. Otherwise, it opens itself up to even more potential litigation from Sterling than is already being predicted, as the NBA continues the process of terminating the current ownership interests in the team as quickly as possible.