LOS ANGELES — Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Ballmer's bid sets a record price for an NBA team and beat out a $1.6 billion bid from a group led by David Geffen, as well as a $1.2 billion bid from an investor group headed up by Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh.
Ballmer and Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling signed a "binding contract" for the sale Thursday, according to a statement from Sterling's lawyer. The statement describes Sterling as the "sole trustee" of the family trust that owns the team, meaning she would have had the authority to act alone.
Still unclear, however, is what role her estranged husband and team co-owner Donald Sterling will have in the sale. ESPN reported Thursday Donald has been found to be "mentally incapacitated" by experts. If true, that diagnosis would reportedly allow Shelly to move forward with the sale without Donald's consent. However, when asked if Donald's approval is needed, his attorney Max Blecher told BuzzFeed Thursday that "we think it is." Blecher also told BuzzFeed that Sterling has "not consented to any actual or prospective sale."
Neither Blecher nor Shelly's attorneys responded to BuzzFeed's request for comment on the alleged incapacitation.
Shelly met with Ballmer earlier this week and has been moving quickly to sell the team even as the NBA works to oust the family over her husband's racist comments. And looming on the horizon for the Sterlings was a June 3 hearing at which the NBA's Board of Governors planned to vote on terminating the family's ownership of the team.
In the statement from her attorney, Shelly said she is "delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner."
Donald has been unclear about whether or not he would oppose the sale. Earlier this week, a 27-page document indicated he planned to fight the NBA's efforts to oust him.
Reports also circulated Wednesday indicating Donald plans to sue the NBA. However, Blecher told BuzzFeed that as of Thursday no lawsuit had been filed.
UPDATE: The NBA released a statement Friday saying Shelly Sterling advised the NBA Thursday night that an agreement had been reached with Steve Ballmer, and the NBA Advisory/Finance Committee met via conference call Friday to discuss these developments. The NBA says the league awaits the submission of necessary documentation from Mrs. Sterling. In the meantime, the June 3 special meeting of the NBA Board of Governors remains as scheduled
Ballmer has previously said he wouldn't take the Clippers out of Los Angeles because a move would be "value destructive."
Ballmer left Microsoft in February. Estimates put his net worth at about $20 billion, including a more than $2 billion increase after he announced his retirement, which might have paid for the Clippers.
The former CEO has a history of involvement with the NBA. Last year, he was part of a group that tried to buy the Sacramento Kings in order to move them to Seattle. That bid ultimately failed when the NBA's Board of Governors rejected the idea of relocating the team.
The previous price record for an NBA team team was set this month when Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry bought the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million.
Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jim Dalrymple II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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