There have been plenty of moving parts to the saga involving Donald Sterling and the potential sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, but Friday’s developments — which include the NBA announcing a settlement with the Sterling family trust that would see the team sold to Steve Ballmer and the June 3 hearing to terminate ownership canceled — would lead us to believe that things are winding down toward a somewhat inevitable conclusion.
Ballmer was part of the group that attempted to purchase the Sacramento Kings, with the intent of moving that franchise to Seattle. The former Microsoft CEO obviously has roots there, but his pending purchase of L.A.’s junior franchise would reportedly include language in the deal that would preclude him from moving the Clippers from the second largest media market in the U.S.
From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:
There is language in the purchase agreement w/ Ballmer that states he will not move the Clippers from Los Angeles, source says.
This is in line with Ballmer’s remarks to the Wall Street Journal back on May 15, when he said that moving the Clippers wouldn’t make any sense considering the negative effect it would have on the valuation of the franchise.
“If I get interested in the Clippers, it would be for Los Angeles,” Ballmer said. “I don’t work anymore, so I have more geographic flexibility than I did a year, year-and-a half ago. Moving them anywhere else would be value destructive.”
Things can change over time, and it’s doubtful that any language like that would remain iron-clad, especially if the league decides at some point in the future that Los Angeles doesn’t need two franchises. But the few true fans the Clippers actually have can take a bit of comfort in the fact that while the potential for relocation exists, preventing it with contractual language was, at the very least, a consideration.