Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is apparently chasing ownership of the L.A. Clippers in earnest, reportedly meeting yesterday with Shelly Sterling, who’s running the team since her husband, Donald, was banned from the NBA.
The meeting was reported by TMZ and was scheduled to take place at her home in Malibu. No word on the outcome.
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Ballmer has had a long-time interest in owning an NBA team, most recently joining with hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen last year in an attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings and relocate it to Seattle. That attempt failed, and in the meantime Ballmer has retired from Microsoft, giving him more time to chase a team, but also less interest in moving one to Seattle.
He has actually stated that if he did buy the Clippers, they would stay in Los Angeles because a move would destroy value of the team.
Here’s what he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: “WSJ: You’ve tried a couple times to buy an NBA franchise to return a basketball team to Seattle. Are you interested in the Los Angeles Clippers, if the team goes up for sale?
“Ballmer: I have nothing definitive to say. Am I right on top of what’s going on there? Absolutely I am. I love basketball, and I’d love to participate at some point in the NBA. If the opportunity is outside of Seattle, so be it. I will learn about any team that comes up for sale at this point.
“WSJ: So you wouldn’t move the Clippers to Seattle?
“Ballmer: If I get interested in the Clippers, it would be for Los Angeles. I don’t work anymore, so I have more geographic flexibility than I did a year, year-and-a half ago. Moving them anywhere else would be value destructive.”
During the negotiations for the Kings last year, Ballmer’s trademark bombastic personality may have worked against his efforts, at least according to a story by ProBasketballTalk on NBC Sports: “According to league sources speaking to PBT under condition of anonymity, the recent power plays made by Seattle and the Maloof family [then-owners of the Kings] have ‘started to weigh on the NBA to the point where any Ballmer-led proposal now or in the future could fall on deaf ears if he doesn’t change course.’
“When asked to clarify, the source said that should the Seattle group continue to pursue a scorched earth policy with the Sacramento marketplace, they would jeopardize the city’s ability to secure an NBA team down the road should an opportunity present itself.”
Perhaps Ballmer has calmed down a little since his retirement.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.