Maybe Shelly Sterling is true to her word and just wants to facilitate a quick sale of the Clippers to the highest bidder and get out of the way. History implores us not to trust the word of a Sterling, but stranger things have happened.
Or maybe the league goes ahead with taking control of the team and selling it out from under the Sterlings.
One way or another the Clippers are going on the block soon and are expected to fetch better than $1 billion as a sales price. If you really want to be nauseous, remember Donald Sterling bought the Clippers for $12.5 million ($3 million down) and is about to become flush with cash one way or another.
So who might buy the Clippers?
• Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim group. Also known as the poetic justice bid. This is a group the league would love to see own the team — they already own the Dodgers (having won a sealed bid process much like the league might use), they have one of the most iconic personalities in Los Angeles as the front man, they have the money via the other guys in the group, and it would be a nice little kick in the behind for Donald Sterling as he is pushed out the door. If the Sterlings sell the team themselves before the league takes it from them, the odds of this group winning go down fast.
• Oprah Winfrey, David Geffen and Larry Ellison. That trio is pretty much the definition of deep pockets. Any one of them could buy a team (Lord knows Ellison has tried) and together they have money and star power. This has to be the early favorite in the process. You can insert your own “you get a contract and you get a contract” joke right here.
• Grant Hill and his investment group. Grant Hill was always the guy in the locker room who was reading the Wall Street Journal instead of tweeting, the guy who would put Bloomberg TV on instead of ESPN on a locker room television. He’s got a mind for business. And he has assembled a group that may buy the Clippers, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.
•Rick Caruso. A developer whose name is not known all that well outside Los Angeles, but in L.A. he’s the guy that owns the Grove. He was in the running to buy the Dodgers but lost out to the Magic/Guggenheim group.
• Patrick Soon-Shiong. Another name not known outside the City of Angels, but the medical researcher and business man is the richest man in Los Angeles, worth $9.8 billion. He already owners four percent of Lakers, so he has been through the league’s ownership vetting process.
• Yao Ming. According to Bill Simmons of Grantland (and confirmed by ESPN’s Marc Stein), Yao is getting together a group of Chinese investors to make a bid. Seems a long shot but you never know.
There are a lot of smaller names that could try to attach as a minority owner with a group, such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. (he would never pass the league’s screening process for owners), Rick Ross, Frankie Muniz and others. They will get pub if attached to a deal, but like Grant Hill and Magic Johnson they are not the real money.
These are just the names we know. There are always hedge fund billionaires just circling the NBA looking for an investment (see the Milwaukee Bucks sale for $550 million) so other names who can write big checks will certainly pop up.
For the Sterlings, that is enough to create one massive bidding war. They are going to pocket a lot of money on this sale, whoever handles it. Which is a little disturbing, really.