The former chief of Microsoft Corp., Steve Ballmer, has agreed to purchase the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion, a record price for a professional basketball team.
The deal was announced Friday by Ballmer and Shelly Sterling, the wife of owner Donald Sterling, whom the NBA had banned over racist comments.
Shelly Sterling is the sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the club. In a statement, she said she was "delighted" to sell the team to Ballmer, saying he would make a "terrific owner."
Ballmer said in a statement that he loves basketball and will do everything he can "to ensure that the Clippers continue to win, and win big, in Los Angeles."
The NBA's Board of Governors must approve the sale.
The NBA banned Donald Sterling for life after a recording emerged in April in which he told a female companion not to bring African American friends to Clippers games.
Sterling’s lawyers also say he must agree to the deal. Reuters reported that, in a CNN interview, lawyer Maxwell Blecher said his client was prepared to fight the charges. The NBA scheduled a June 3 hearing at which Sterling can respond to accusations. At that meeting, owners could vote to force the team’s sale.
The 80-year-old Sterling, who bought the Clippers for $12.5 million in 1981, is the longest-tenured owner of any of the NBA's 30 teams.
The 58-year-old Ballmer retired as Microsoft’s CEO in February and still owns about 4 percent of the software company, Reuters reported. Last year, he was part of a group that tried to buy the Sacramento Kings basketball team.
Ballmer's winning bid was raised from an initial $1.8 billion offer made earlier on Thursday, according to a source, who spoke with Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
The news agency reported he had two competitors, including a group led by media mogul David Geffen that bid $1.6 billion. It said a group of Los Angeles investors offered $1.2 billion.
If approved, the sports deal would be second only to the $2.15 billion paid in 2012 for baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters