According to the Los Angeles Times, former Microsoft CEO — and still current kajillionaire — Steve Ballmer has won Round 1 of the Clippers bidding war with an offer of $2 billion. The number is slightly higher than the $1.8 billion that was reported earlier Thursday, which for someone worth about $20 billion, isn’t too much of a difference.
Ballmer’s bid was significantly higher than that of two other offers, one from a group led by David Geffen ($1.6 billion) and another from Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh ($1.2 billion). As we learned last spring, all this means is that Ballmer was willing to outbid competitors into submission (something he’s very good at) — and in no way guarantees he will actually receive the full blessing of the NBA’s Board of Governors.
So, what’s next? Here are two things to keep in mind:
1. Thanks to his pursuit of the Sacramento Kings last year, Ballmer has already been vetted and approved as a potential NBA owner, so the NBA can move much quicker towards approving a sale — something the league is very keen on doing. If a hasty resolution is what the league wants, it’s a slam dunk for Ballmer. Also, his bid immediately increases franchise values for the second year in a row. All thanks to Ballmer’s want of owning a team.
2. And, what about Seattle? Ballmer is on record saying that if he bought the Clippers, he wouldn’t move them to Seattle, as such a move would be “value destructive”. He’s right. You don’t move from the #2 media market (even if the team has long played second fiddle in said market) to the #13 media market. However, if you ask anyone, it was probably also viewed as “value destructive” to move a team from the 13th largest market to the 43rd, but the NBA didn’t give a shit then, so why would it give a shit now?
Thus, this will go one of two ways for Seattle Supersonics fans:
- Ballmer is approved as the new Clippers owner, stays true to his word, the Clippers stay in Los Angeles, Chris Hansen loses his whale, and the Sonics will — and I can’t stress this enough — never come back, in and way, shape or form.
- The owners do what they’ve done for two of the three most recent franchise sales (New Orleans, Sacramento) and accept a lower bid from a locally-connected owner (Geffen, Ressler/Karsch) who will most certainly keep the team in Los Angeles. In my non-expert opinion, the only way it goes down like that is if Ballmer gets some assurance that he will be rewarded with an expansion team once the new television deal is struck.
However this plays out, it’s worth noting that if the Clippers do sell for $2 billion, it’ll be the second-highest price paid for an American sports franchise in history, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ $2.1 billion acquisition. It makes you wonder what a team like the New York Knicks could go for if James Dolan came out tomorrow and said “alright, I’m taking offers”.