LOS ANGELES – Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially became the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday, August 12 after months of legal wranglings, the National Basketball Association announced.
It said the transaction, worth an estimated $2 billion, closed after a California court order went into effect confirming that Shelly Sterling had the authority to sell the team.
In a statement, Ballmer said he was “humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.”
The team went on the block after the NBA slapped a life ban on its owner, Donald Sterling, who bought the club in 1981 for $12.5 million.
The action was in response to a video aired on celebrity website TMZ that showed Sterling criticizing his girlfriend for having her picture taken with black people.
In the storm that followed, the 80-year-old billionaire initially agreed to the sale of the team, but then abruptly withdrew his support.
His wife Shelly, however, moved to sell the Clippers as a trustee of the family trust that owned the team after Sterling had been declared mentally incapacitated.
The NBA Board of Governors had previously approved the sale and Ballmer now takes on the title of Clippers Governor.
Ballmer thanked Clippers fans for remaining “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,” he said.
“And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said they can now focus on winning titles.
“This is an amazing new day in Clippers history,” Rivers said. “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.”
Ballmer’s purchase would make the Clippers, which have never won a title, the second most expensive franchise in the US professional sports. It is the highest price ever paid for a NBA team.
On July 28, after a three week trial, Judge Michael Levanas gave the green light to the sale, finding no evidence of a secret plot against Sterling.
Sterling contended he had been duped by his wife into submitting to the medical tests as part of a plot to have him ousted from the trust so the sale could move forward.
Donald Sterling appealed the decision to a court in Los Angles, but it was rejected. He has said he would not go down without a fight and still is reportedly expected to launch another appeal of the sale.
The decision to hand the team over to Ballmer is a timely one as the NBA is expected to announce their new schedule on Wednesday. – Rappler.com
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