If Donald and Shelly Sterling do sell the Clippers, there would be no shortage of buyers.
The Clippers could command $1 billion, in part because a new owner could reap the benefits of a spirited bidding war among Fox Sports, Time Warner Cable and the Dodgers’ parent company. All three need live programming for their respective channels -- Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket; TWC SportsNet; and SportsNet LA -- and the Clippers are the only significant franchise in town whose television rights come up for bid soon.
The Clippers’ deal with Fox Sports expires after the 2015-16 season.
The Dodgers’ owners -- Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim group -- would be interested in buying the Clippers. The mega-billionaire trio of Oprah Winfrey, David Geffen and Larry Ellison already has confirmed its interest in a joint bid.
Biotech investor and philanthropist Patrick Soon-Shiong, the richest man in Los Angeles, would be interested. Rick Caruso, the real estate developer who partnered with Joe Torre in an unsuccessful bid to buy the Dodgers, has said he would be interested.
However, billionaires do not often telegraph their interests. Of the three finalists in the Dodgers’ bidding, none were publicly identified in the first few weeks after the team went up for sale.
The Dodgers sold for $2.15 billion, in a sale process run by an investment bank and outgoing owner Frank McCourt, not by Major League Baseball. McCourt and the bank decided 11 candidates would advance past an initial round of bidding.
The Clippers do not figure to command nearly that high a price, but a wider field of bidders might emerge, according to one person familiar with the process. Basketball has a greater international cachet than baseball, the person said, and the global marketing opportunities for a NBA team based in Los Angeles could be significant.