Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has signed a contract to buy the National Basketball Association's L.A. Clippers franchise for $2 billion, according to media reports.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Ballmer's $2 billion bid was the best offer for the team, and it will also easily be the league's biggest team sale to date, pending NBA approval. The previous high mark for an NBA team's sale was the Milwaukee Bucks' $550 million deal. ESPN subsequently corroborated the Times report, saying it won't require the approval of current team owner Donald Sterling, who is in the process of being ousted from the league for racially charged comments, as the sale is managed by the family trust.
The news follows an earlier report that Ballmer had submitted a $1.8 billion bid for the team, as well as comments by the former Microsoft leader himself that he was interested in potentially purchasing the Clippers. Ballmer has said he has no plans to move the Clippers to Seattle, however, saying it would be detrimental to the franchise. Last year, a group that included Ballmer tried to buy the NBA's Sacramento Kings and potentially move them to Seattle, though that deal was squashed.
Though he's no longer with Microsoft, Ballmer's impending purchase could also be beneficial for the company. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen owns the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks, which Microsoft heavily sponsors through Bing and its other business units (notably, the team's mascot is a Microsoft employee). Additionally, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson recently starred in a commercial for Microsoft's Surface line, and the company gave tablets to the team.
So far, reaction to the impending sale has been positive from professional sports dignitaries. NBA great Earvin "Magic" Johnson tweeted that the sale is a "big win" for the city, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the Clippers would "be so fortunate" to have Ballmer as an owner. Given Ballmer's vocal support for Microsoft, it's likely the NBA can expect a passionate owner.
Update: The proposed deal has been confirmed by statements from both Ballmer and the Sterling family. Ballmer's statement is as follows:
I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. I love basketball. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win – and win big – in Los Angeles. L.A. is one of the world’s great cities – a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness. I am confident that the Clippers will in the coming years become an even bigger part of the community. I thank Shelly Sterling for her willingness to entrust the Clippers franchise to me, and I am grateful to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his colleagues for working collaboratively with me throughout this process.
According to ESPN, Ballmer has told friends he plans to move to the L.A. area to oversee the franchise.