If Donald Sterling sells the Clippers -- by his choice, or because his fellow NBA owners vote him out -- he is likely to command a sale price that would be at least twice the record for an NBA franchise.
The two highest NBA sale prices -- $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks, and $534 million for the Sacramento Kings -- involved small-market teams. A sale of the Clippers probably would spark a spirited bidding war, with a sale price above $1 billion.
The Dodgers commanded a sale price far above most projections, in large part because Magic Johnson and his partners at Guggenheim Baseball realized how much money could be made in media rights. Guggenheim bought the Dodgers for $2.15 billion, then played Fox Sports and Time Warner Cable against one another before securing an $8.35-billion television contract from TWC.
The Clippers are the only major sports team in town whose television rights come up for bid soon. The Clippers’ contract with Fox Sports expires after the 2015-16 season.
Fox needs the Clippers to maintain the viability of Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket, fighting to keep both channels alive after losing the Lakers and Dodgers. TWC SportsNet, the Lakers’ channel, already was considering a significant bid for the Clippers. And, for the new SportsNet LA, owned by the Dodgers, the promise of a second team might sway the cable and satellite providers so far reluctant to carry the channel.
That means a new Clippers owner could leverage at least three potential television suitors, at a time the Clippers are in position to keep rising as the Lakers keep sliding. Johnson and his Guggenheim partners might be the most motivated to buy the Clippers, if they come up for sale, but they by no means would be the only bidders.
Rick Caruso, the developer who partnered with former Dodgers Manager Joe Torre on a bid to buy the Dodgers, has said he would be interested. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the richest man in Los Angeles, also is likely to be interested. Soon-Shiong owns a small share of the Lakers -- he bought that share from Johnson -- and pursued bids for the Dodgers and AEG Live.
Forbes estimates the value of the Clippers at $575 million. When the Dodgers went up for sale, Forbes’ most recent valuation was $800 million.