The NBA announced that Steve Ballmer’s $2-billion purchase of the Clippers had closed on Tuesday, making the former Microsoft CEO the undisputed owner of the team.
The transaction ends a fractious period of nearly four months in which owner Donald Sterling fought to retain control of the team he had presided over for three decades. A judge affirmed the right of Shelly Sterling, Donald’s estranged wife, to wrest control of the team from her husband and sell it to Ballmer.
Ballmer’s lawyer, Adam Streisand, said the agreement to sell the Clippers quickly finalized after Judge Michael Levanas signed the final order Tuesday morning permitting the sale.
“Within minutes, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered,” Streisand said.
“I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Ballmer said in a statement. “Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA.”
However, Donald Sterling has not given up in his fight against the sale of the Clippers.
Hours after the announcement of the sale, Sterling petitioned an appeals court to overturn the move.
“An immediate stay from this court, and an order halting or unwinding the sale, is necessary,” the filing said, “to allow meaningful review of the novel and erroneous legal determinations made here, and to restore public faith in our justice system.”
Sterling’s petition asks the court to set aside the final statement of decision Tuesday issued in the probate court case that cleared the way for Steve Ballmer’s $2-billion purchase of the franchise.
The petition wants the “consummation of the sale” and “all orders of the trial court” halted pending the appellate court’s review. It's unknown when the appeals court will make a ruling on the petition.
Pierce O’Donnell, Shelly Sterling’s attorney, called the petition “patently frivolous.”
The league’s board of governors previously approved the sale of the team to Ballmer, who will meet with fans during a festival at Staples Center at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
“I am thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner,” Shelly Sterling said in a news release.
“I am confident that Steve will bring the city a championship team in the very near future. I cannot wait for the new season to begin.”
As part of the sale agreement, Shelly Sterling receives the titles “Clippers Number One Fan” and “owner emeritus” and a variety of perks that include game tickets.
Reaction from Clippers players was immediate, with a few commenting on Clippers.com.
“I am very excited about Mr. Ballmer’s purchase of the Clippers. I’ve had a chance to meet him and his excitement for the game of basketball and our team is going to be great for the league, the city of Los Angeles and Clipper fans everywhere," guard Chris Paul said.
“Today is a great day for the Clipper organization and fans everywhere. I look forward to having Mr. Ballmer as an owner and continuing our pursuit of a championship,” forward Blake Griffin said.
"Today was a very important step not only for our team but the NBA. I know Mr. Ballmer has the passion for succeeding and I am excited about him being the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” guard JJ Redick said.
“I cannot wait to play this season knowing Mr. Ballmer is our owner. Today was a great day for the Clippers,” center DeAndre Jordan said.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million in late April after a tape recording emerged in which Sterling made derogatory comments about blacks. Sterling, 80, sued the league, but his efforts to keep the Clippers failed after Shelly Sterling removed her husband from the family trust because of mental incapacitation.
The NBA's Board of Governors voted via e-mail last week to approve the sale, and it was a unanimous 29-0 vote. The Clippers did not vote.
“This is an amazing new day in Clippers history,” Clippers President of Basketball Operations and Coach Doc Rivers said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization. I am already inspired by Steve’s passion for the game, his love of competition and desire to win the right way and I know our players and fans are going to be inspired as well.”
Fan reaction outside Staples Center on Tuesday was mixed.
"He got shafted. If you said something, would they make you sell your company?" was the reaction of Nathan Allen, a 40-year-old radiologist from Alabama.
Victor Arana, a 34-year-old paralegal and a Clippers fan for the last decade, said he was happy the team got sold. "I think Donald Sterling was all around a bad guy for many reasons other than the alleged racism."
Mirza Avdovic, a 27-year-old teacher from New York said he's glad to see Sterling gone. "I'm from New York and we're very diverse and open out there so I didn't like what happened. It's always good to have a fresh start."
Derrick Parker, a 46-year-old business owner, also said he was glad to see Sterling gone. "I'm excited, I think it's good for the game. It doesn't solve racial relations, but it makes a difference. It's a beginning."
Demetrius Everson, a 36-year-old stagehand, said of Sterling: "I don't think he should have lost his team because of the statements he made. He's been like that for a long time."