Celebrities, business titans mull buying Clippers from Sterling

A lot of boldface names seem to be interested in the Los Angeles Clippers in the wake of the Donald Sterling scandal.

It's unclear how serious some of the potential suitors are. But the team has attracted attention from both Hollywood celebrities and business titans.


As The Times' James Rainey andthe owner of the Dodgers (Guggenheim Partners), the man dubbed the city's richest (Patrick Soon-Shiong), the pro boxer (Floyd Mayweather Jr.) and his "billionaire guy" pals, the music impresario (Sean "Diddy" Combs) and the power troika of Larry Ellison, David Geffen and Oprah Winfrey have all been mentioned.

None of these potential buyers, and scads of other Twitter musers and true contenders, can expect the Clippers to drop onto their balance sheet anytime soon. Sterling has not responded to Tuesday's bombshell, when the league he has belonged to for 33 years said it had banned him for life, fined him $2.5 million and would try to force him to sell his team.

If there is a new Clippers owner, it will be an individual or group that can bring a bucket-load of money. Sports economists say the team could sell for as much as $1 billion.

In discussing his prospective joint bid, Geffen told ESPN that he thought the presence of Winfrey, the television host and one of the most successful black entrepreneurs in America, would strengthen the group's position.

Geffen told the sports website that Winfrey (net worth, an estimated $2.9 billion) is not interested in running the team, but believes "it would be a great thing for an important black American to own [another] franchise."

Geffen is co-founder of the DreamWorks Animation SKG studio, with a net worth pegged by Forbes at $6.2 billion. He is close to Ellison, the chief executive of software giant Oracle, whose fortune is estimated at more than $50 billion. Ellison previously invested $100 million in professional tennis and its BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.

Sterling rejected Geffen's $600-million bid for a controlling stake in the Clippers in 2010. That was the same year that Ellison made an unsuccessful run at the Golden State Warriors, a franchise that sold for $450 million to a group of investors led by venture capitalist Joe Lacob.

Geffen has occupied a courtside seat at Lakers games for years and has invested with Ellison in another wealthy plaything — co-ownership of the Rising Sun, a 450-foot, five-story yacht, one of the largest in the world.

Billionaire shopping mall developer Rick Caruso agreed that at least partial control by an ethnic minority owner would make sense.

"The ownership of the team should reflect the diversity of the city and the fan base," said Caruso, who is not ready to name his partners. "That's not only because of the players on the team but because of the diversity of the city as a whole."

Several of those who spoke about the sale said they viewed the Chicago-based Guggenheim group as a serious competitor should it decide to pursue the Clippers. The firm paid a record $2 billion for the Dodgers and it could defray the cost of another sale among a large partnership.

Lakers great Magic Johnson has also expressed interest in owning an NBA team. He could partner with Guggenheim, which he has worked with since they took over the Dodgers in 2012.

Who do you think should own the Clippers? Share your views below.