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 $1.2 billion. People familiar with both those offers said they were rejected.
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 five days ahead of an NBA hearing to oust her family from ownership. Donald Sterling had insulted African Americans in a secret audio recording.
Donald Sterling has waxed and waned on the question of whether he would allow his wife to sell the team he has controlled for more than three decades.
The deal also needs the eventual approval of three-fourths of the 30 NBA owners, but is expected to clear that hurdle as long as Ballmer reaffirms his pledge to keep the team in Los Angeles and not move it to home in Seattle.
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