Ballmer bid higher than competitors that included Los Angeles-based investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh and a group that included David Geffen and executives from the Guggenheim Group, the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Geffen group offered $1.6 billion and the Ressler-Karsh group offered $1.2 billion. Those offers were rejected, according to several people involved in the negotiations who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the bidding.
Ballmer and Clippers co-owner Shelly
The sale price would be almost four times the previous NBA franchise high: the $550 million paid earlier this month for the
Donald Sterling agreed last week to allow his wife to conduct a sale of the team. The process was rushed to beat a Tuesday deadline, when NBA owners are scheduled to meet to decide whether to strip the Sterlings of their ownership after Donald Sterling insulted African Americans in an audio recording that was leaked by the celebrity website TMZ.
Days after the recording was released, NBA Commissioner
Donald Sterling has equivocated on whether he would sign off on a sale of the Clippers. Another of his attorneys, Maxwell Blecher, said Donald Sterling wanted "vindication" more than a high sale price.
The deal would also need the approval of three-quarters of the 30 NBA owners, but is expected to clear that hurdle as long as Ballmer reaffirms his pledge to keep the team in L.A. and not move it to Seattle, where he lives.
Ballmer, 58, left the software giant in February and has an estimated net worth of $20 billion. Unlike other bidders, he did not immediately seek out partners for the purchase of the Clippers.
Ballmer last year joined a group, led by hedge fund manager
The businessman said in a recent interview that he had no intention of moving the Clippers. He said that the high valuations for the team only made sense in Los Angeles.
The turn to sports perhaps shouldn't be entirely surprising for Ballmer, a man whom many have described over the years as the head cheerleader for Microsoft.
Ballmer is a native of Detroit who attended
But in 1980, Gates persuaded his friend to become the 30th employee and first business manager of the company now called Microsoft.
Over the next two decades, the men became an essential force in ushering in the PC era of computing. The franchise they would build around the Windows operating system created a company feared throughout Silicon Valley, and one that made them — along with co-founder
Ballmer gained a reputation for having an exuberant personality.
At meetings, he rallied the company's sales force by jumping around the stage and shouting. He also filmed a number of zany Microsoft promotional videos that have long since gone viral where he can be seen hawking early versions of Windows with the vigor of a used car salesman.
In January 2000, Ballmer succeeded Gates as CEO of Microsoft, a job he held until February. While the company's revenues and profits continued to expand throughout Ballmer's tenure, there was a sense that the company had fallen behind in a number of key technologies.
Though supporters believed that Ballmer's successes, such as launching the Xbox and pushing the company deeper into business-related computing markets, were never fully acknowledged, Ballmer decided last year that he would step aside because he believed the negative perceptions of his leadership would always color outsiders' view of the company.