Donald Sterling might be a disgraced man, but as a result of his racist rants the Los Angeles Clippers, the team he owned for 33 years, is on the verge of being purchased by former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion payoff.
Sterling, 80 and banned from the NBA by commissioner Adam Silver, recently was found by experts to be mentally incapacitated, allowing his wife, Shelly Sterling, to become the sole trustee and giving her the power to deal directly with Ballmer under guidelines previously established in the Sterling family trust, sources told ESPN. The rules of the trust did not require a court hearing first to declare Donald Sterling is in that state.
The Clippers deal would be the most paid by far for an NBA team, after the $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this year.
Ballmer, 58, was CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014 and is worth $20.3 billion, according to Forbes.
ESPN reported 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Geffen confirmed to ESPN on Thursday night that his group had formally withdrawn from the bidding.
Shelly Sterling had pushed to negotiate a sale before Tuesday’s NBA Board of Governors meeting at which both of the Sterlings’ ownership interests could be terminated, while Donald Sterling had vowed to fight the league’s attempts to force a sale.
Donald Sterling’s attorney sent a 32-page response to the league this past Tuesday, but the rebuttal did not address Sterling’s mental capacity as part of his defense. Shelly Sterling told the “Today” show earlier this month that she thought her husband might have been developing dementia.
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 only real estate involved in the Clippers deal is their training facility in Playa Vista.