|AP Source: Former Microsoft CEO wins Clippers’ bid|
|Thursday, May 29, 2014 8:24 PM|
LOS ANGELES — Shelly Sterling reached an agreement Thursday night to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, according to an individual with knowledge of the negotiations.
The individual, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press that Ballmer and the Sterling Family Trust now have a binding agreement. The deal now must be presented to the NBA.
Shelly Sterling negotiated the sale after her husband, Donald Sterling, made racist remarks that were made public. Donald Sterling must also approve the final agreement as a 50-percent owner.
Ballmer beat out bids by Guggenheim Partners and a group including former NBA All-Star Grant Hill.
It’s unclear if the deal will go through. The individual said that though Donald Sterling was not involved in the negotiations, “at the end of the day, he has to sign off on the final process. They’re not going to sell his 50 percent without him agreeing to it.”
Donald Sterling’s attorney, Bobby Samini, says that won’t happen: “Sterling is not selling the team. That’s his position. He’s not going to sell.”
That’s despite a May 22 letter obtained by The Associated Press and written by another one of Sterling’s attorneys that says that “Donald T. Sterling authorizes Rochelle Sterling to negotiate with the National Basketball Association regarding all issues in connection with a sale of the Los Angeles Clippers team.” It includes the line “read and approved” and Donald Sterling’s signature.
Samini said Sterling has had a change of heart primarily because of “the conduct of the NBA.” He said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to ban Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million as well as try to oust him as an owner was him acting as “judge, jury and executioner.”
“They’re telling me he should stand back and let them take his team because his opinion on that particular day was not good, was not popular?” Samini asked. “That his team should be stripped from him? It doesn’t make sense. He’s going to fight.”
The person with knowledge of the deal said that any buyer would have to ensure the team remains in Los Angeles and be someone Shelly Sterling could work with if she decides to retain a small stake. An attorney representing Shelly Sterling declined to comment.
Franchise sale prices have soared since the current collective bargaining agreement was ratified in 2011. The Milwaukee Bucks were just sold to New York investment firm executives Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens for about $550 million, an NBA record.
Last year, Vivek Ranadive’s group acquired a 65-percent controlling interest in the Sacramento Kings at a total franchise valuation of more than $534 million, topping the previous record of $450 million that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber paid for the Golden State Warriors in 2010.
The bid for the Clippers, purchased by Sterling in 1981 for a little more than $12 million, blew right past those.
New owners settle in with Bucks
MILWAUKEE — The new owners of the Bucks are still getting used to Milwaukee. And they are still celebrating their new acquisition.
Marc Lasry and Wes Edens were in town Thursday to meet with front office staff, observe pre-draft workouts and talk with fans at a playoff game viewing party at a local bar. Lasry was treated to a local welcome when he was offered a beer Wednesday morning.
“I don’t think I’ve had a beer before 10 a.m. since college,” Lasry said.
The two New York investment firm executives bought the team earlier this year for about $550 million. An injury-plagued season left the Bucks a franchise-worst 15-67 and the significance of gathering with Milwaukee fans in a bar to watch San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals wasn’t lost on the new owners.
“Watching two small-market teams from cities not-so-different from Milwaukee . it would be a lot more fun if we were playing and that’s obviously the goal,” Edens said.
The process of getting to that point is already in progress as the Bucks, owners of the No. 2 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, have evaluated a dozen players. Milwaukee also holds the 31st, 36th and 48th selections and has needs at every position.
“It doesn’t happen overnight. You build a very solid foundation and build from there,” Edens said. “We want to have a championship winning basketball team here and you start with the pieces you’ve got and build around it.”
Speculation regarding who will make Milwaukee’s selections has swirled since Edens and Lasry came aboard but it appears general manager John Hammond and coach Larry Drew are OK for now.
On the business side, the duo plans to make some changes in the near future starting with somebody to oversee the day-to-day operations.
“You find it starts from the top,” Lasry said. “You have to get a great CEO. You need people that live this thing 24/7. That’s sort of what we are going to try to do. When you look at where the Bucks have been over the last number of years — whether it is on the operations side — I think it there is a lot of room to improve.”
Lasry and Edens committed to providing $100 million to help build a new arena while former Sen. Herb Kohl, the previous owner, said he would donate $100 million for a new facility to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
NBA expands games to Mexico, London
NEW YORK — The NBA will play regular-season games in Mexico City and London as part of its extended global schedule for next season.
The Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves will play at the Mexico City Arena on Nov. 12. The Milwaukee Bucks will face the New York Knicks at The O2 on Jan. 15.
The two regular-season games will follow the NBA global preseason games in October that will feature five teams — Brooklyn, Cleveland, Miami, Sacramento and San Antonio — playing a series of games in Brazil, China, Germany and Turkey.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver explains, “These regular-season games will bring the excitement and incredible competition of our league to more fans in Europe and Latin America.”
Pacers’ Hibbert, Stephenson fined for flopping
MIAMI — Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers have both been fined for flopping in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Stephenson was fined $10,000 for his second violation of the playoffs. Hibbert was fined $5,000.
Stephenson’s flop with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Pacers’ 93-90 win over the Miami Heat. Hibbert’s was with 5:18 remaining.
Game 6 is today in Miami. The Heat lead the series 3-2.