Owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. That will become the new title for former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, following news late Thursday that he is buying the team from The Sterling Family Trust for a record-breaking $2 billion.
The Trust is the ownership entity for Donald Sterling and his wife, Shelly Sterling. Donald Sterling has been at the center of controversy since his recorded racist remarks were made public. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has banned Donald Sterling from the game for life because of his comments, and has been taking steps to require him to sell the team.
In a statement Thursday, Shelly Sterling, who claims to be the sole trustee of the Trust, said that a binding contract for the sale to Ballmer has been signed. However, it must still be approved by the NBA.
'Will Be a Terrific Owner'
Shelly Sterling described Ballmer as someone who "will be a terrific owner," adding that she was "confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success."
The ownership of the Trust is said to be split 50-50 between Donald and Shelly, but the Associated Press said it has a copy of a letter, dated May 22 and signed by Donald, that authorizes Shelly Sterling to negotiate with the NBA for all issues relating to a sale of the team. But one of Donald's attorneys has said that he is "not selling the team," and has changed his mind about the letter.
USA Today said that it was told by "a person familiar with the situation" that Donald has been ruled mentally unfit by experts, as defined by provisions of the Trust, and thus is not capable of making decisions connected to the family trust.
According to news reports, Ballmer was in a bidding competition with several others, including Guggenheim Partners and an investment group that included ex-NBA player Grant Hall. Ballmer, who is reportedly worth $20 billion, is apparently making the bid by himself.
In a statement, Ballmer said he loved basketball, and that he intends "to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win -- and win big -- in Los Angeles." He specifically noted that LA is a "city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness."
Shortly after the announcement, modified Clippy cartoons started showing up on the Web. Clippy was a paperclip-like character who served as the mascot for Microsoft Word and Office Assistant from 1997 to 2007. He constantly popped up on-screen to say things like: "It looks like you are trying to write a letter. May I help?"
In one post-Clippers sale cartoon, Clippy said, "It looks like you're trying to buy out a racist. Would you like me to sell off our old stockpile of lightly used zunes?" Zune was Microsoft's ill-fated brand of media player hardware and software.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst for Reticle Research, told us that, "beyond the jokes about a 'Clippy' mascot, I can say that tech CEOs are competitive and this is one way for them to drive a youth-driven, talent-based business like tech businesses." Other tech moguls turned owners of professional sports teams include Mark Cuban and Paul Allen.
Endpoint Technologies Associates' analyst Roger Kay said that Ballmer "has always been an everyman kind of middle class guy, and now he can be that kinda loud guy who likes to pal around with people" with his newly acquired basketball team.