Steve Ballmer bids $2B for Clippers
The Sterling family trust has signed an agreement to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, sources tell ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.
The agreement is going straight to the NBA for final approval and does not require additional approval from banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling, according to sources.
ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported earlier Thursday that Ballmer's $2 billion bid was the highest submitted, topping those from groups led by music mogul David Geffen ($1.6 billion) and L.A. investors Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh ($1.2 billion).
Geffen confirmed to ESPN on Thursday night that his group had formally withdrawn from the bidding.
Sterling's wife, Shelly, had pushed to negotiate a sale before Tuesday's board of governors meeting at which both of the Sterlings' ownership interests could be terminated, while Donald Sterling had vowed to fight the NBA's attempts to force a sale.
The $2 billion price tag is just for the Clippers and ranks among the richest ever for a North American professional sports franchise. The Los Angeles Dodgers were sold to the Guggenheim Group in 2012 for $2.15 billion, but that price included land, parking lots and TV deals, making it more expensive.
The Clippers deal would be the most paid by far for an NBA team, after the $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks this year.
Ballmer, 58, was CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to '14, and is worth $20.3 billion, according to Forbes. He would become the richest majority owner in major U.S. sports, passing his former boss, Seahawks and Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen (worth $16 billion, according to Forbes). Ballmer was the only investor that did not immediately seek out other partners when preparing a bid.
It's not the first time Ballmer has bid on an NBA team. He was part of a group that attempted to buy the Sacramento Kings last year, with the intent of moving the team to Seattle. NBA owners voted to reject the proposed move.
Ballmer told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month that, should he obtain the Clippers, he would not attempt to move the franchise from Los Angeles, saying that would be "value destructive."
Shelly Sterling told bidders to submit letters of interest by Wednesday, with firm offers due by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Geffen's group also included Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey, as well as Guggenheim executives Todd Boehly and Mark Walter, Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Jobs, Steve Wynn's ex-wife Elaine Wynn, and Beats by Dre co-founder Jimmy Iovine.
Former NBA All-Star Grant Hill was part of Ressler and Karsh's group.
On a $2 billion sale, the Sterlings would pay approximately $662 million in capital gains taxes, according to accountant Robert Raiola, sports and entertainment senior group manager at O'Connor Davies LLP in New Jersey
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