NBA sets stage for $2 bn Clippers sale to Ballmer
Shelly Sterling, wife of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald, watches the game on May 3, 2014 in Los Angeles, California - by Frederic J. Brown
Sterling's wife Shelly Sterling negotiated the sale of the club to ex-Microsoft chief executive Ballmer on Thursday in a deal that still must be approved by the league's board of governors.
"The NBA, Shelly Sterling and the Sterling family trust today resolved their dispute over the ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers," the league said in a statement.
"Under the agreement, the Clippers will be sold to Steve Ballmer, pending approval by the NBA Board of Governors, and the NBA will withdraw its pending charge to terminate the Sterlings' ownership of the team."
The league said Shelly Sterling and the Sterling trust had also agreed not to sue the NBA, and to indemnify the league against lawsuits from others, including from Donald Sterling.
Shortly before the NBA's announcement, Donald Sterling filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA in US federal court in Los Angeles, alleging breach of contract and anti-trust and civil rights violations.
Asked via email how the settlement would affect that lawsuit, Sterling attorney Maxwell Blecher plan said cryptically "good question."
Sterling has argued that the NBA had no grounds to sanction him for racist conduct detrimental to the league because the racially charged remarks for which he has been punished came in a private conversation recorded without his permission.
Blecher has said that Sterling was ready to take action not only over the league's effort to terminate his ownership of the club but also over the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine meted out by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Despite the remaining uncertainties, the sale to Ballmer appeared to be on a fast track.
"I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner," Shelly Sterling said.
- Record price tag -
The price tag for a team that has never won a championship would set an NBA record -- well above the record $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks in April.
It would mark a massive financial return for Sterling on a club he purchased in 1981 for just $12 million.
The 58-year-old Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft from 2000 until February this year, said he loves basketball and will do "everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win -- and win big -- in Los Angeles."
With those comments, Ballmer reassured Clippers fans that he wouldn't move the team to Seattle, where he had once hoped to relocate the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
Three quarters of the other 29 NBA club owners must ratify any sale.