Steve Ballmer’s dream of owning an NBA team became less certain with the announcement by Donald Sterling that he won’t support selling the L.A. Clippers to the former Microsoft CEO for $2 billion.
Instead, Sterling will sue the NBA for $1 billion, claiming it violated his rights to privacy, breached its contract with him by levying a fine for racist comments he made and violating anti-trust laws by forcing the sale, according to a news story in USA Today.
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The sale was negotiated and agreed to by his wife, Rochelle, who invoked a clause in their ownership trust that she alone would take over if her husband became cognitively impaired, according to a story in The New York Times. She used that authority based on results of neurological tests and agreed to sell to Ballmer.
The Times story also details how Ballmer wooed Rochelle Sterling’s approval, including a Saturday 7 a.m. wakeup call to ask for a meeting about buying the team. Although she didn’t know who he was, she agreed to meet him, went back to sleep and woke up later wondering who this “Bomber from Washington” was, the Times reports.
She convinced Ballmer to up his bid from $1.925 billion to an even $2 billion, promise not to move the Clippers out of Los Angeles, give her 10% of the team for doing charitable deeds, assign her two floor seats and reserve five parking spots for her. If the team wins the NBA championship, she gets three championship rings, the Times says.
The sale was muddy even before Donald Sterling decided to contest it. His last position before his wife penned the deal with Ballmer was to oppose any sale. The NBA board of governors had yet to approve it, and Sterling could have challenged whether his wife had legally wrested away control of the team. His lawyer said Sterling wasn’t cognitively impaired, just mildly slowing down.