After a judge in California Probate court gave an extraordinary ruling to Shelly Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust a couple of weeks ago confirming her right to sell the Clippers, it was a matter of when not if. Now it is official.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is officially the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers having purchased the team for a record $2 billion, the league announced Tuesday. The NBA’s Board of Governors — the other 29 owners — had unanimously voted online last week to approve the sale, and that combined with the court order cleared the way for the sale.
For the Clippers this sale removes a cloud over the franchise’s head that could have brought some ugly rain if not resolved before the season started. Instead it’s a sunny day in Southern California for the Clippers.
“I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Ballmer said in a released statement. “Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA.”
“This is an amazing new day in Clippers history,” Clippers President and Head Coach Doc Rivers said in his statement. “I couldn’t be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization. I am already inspired by Steve’s passion for the game, his love of competition and desire to win the right way and I know our players and fans are going to be inspired as well.”
Long time Clippers owner Donald Sterling is out.
Despite a history of being arguably the worst owner in professional sports over the past 30 years — running the Clippers poorly with profit the motive over quality basketball, plus embarrassing the league on multiple occasions with his actions and statements — it took TMZ getting ahold of a private conversation taped by a former mistress filled with bigoted comments that pushed the league to make a move. Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million (which has yet to be paid to the league) and said he would force the sale.
However, Shelly Sterling found a way for the NBA owners not to have to vote out one of their own (a precedent they didn’t want to set) and for her to keep her toe in the waters of the NBA, although not as an official owner. However she will still have seats at the game, help run a related charitable foundation and if they ever win a title she gets a ring.
The Clippers were officially owned by the Sterling Family Trust, as were most of the Sterling assets, which had joint trustees of Shelly and Donald Sterling. However he ran the show. Shelly had Donald interviews and tested by doctors, who determined he had the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and with that she had him removed as one of the trustees of the Trust. That cleared the way for her to sell the team to Ballmer for $2 billion (a sum he admitted was a “beachfront price”). Donald Sterling dissolved the Trust and went to court try to have the judge say that Shelly did not follow the rules of the Trust with the sale and for him to block it.
The judge sided with Shelly and made an extraordinary ruling saying that Sterling didn’t even have the standing to appeal his decision. Sterling tried anyway going to a federal court but that was quickly shot down.
That was enough for Ballmer to feel comfortable and go ahead with the sale.
Donald Sterling still has two lawsuits pending against the NBA — one a $1 billion anti-trust complaint and the other seeking an injunction to block the sale that just happened — those are now just a nuisance. Besides, as part of the sale, Shelly Sterling indemnified the league so that any money Donald Sterling wins in these suits comes out of the Trust and the proceeds of the sale. Sterling is basically suing himself.
Donald Sterling is the past. Steve Ballmer is the future. The Clippers, the fan base, the NBA, basically everybody but one bitter old man is ready to move on.