Steve Ballmer needs something to keep him busy now that he's left his position as CEO of Microsoft, and he's just found it in the NBA. Ballmer is buying the Los Angeles Clippers, which he struck a deal to purchase for $2 billion this week. "I love basketball," Ballmer says in a statement. "And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win – and win big – in Los Angeles."
"The NBA and I embrace inclusiveness."The Clippers were put up for sale this month following former owner Donald Sterling's banishment from the league for making racist remarks. He technically hadn't be required to sell the team just yet, but NBA team owners have been just days away from a vote that likely would have ended in that result. Sterling's lawyer has claimed that he'll fight that sale, though his co-owner and wife, Shelly Sterling, is said to have full authority to make the sale and is the one who brokered it with Ballmer. Sterling also plans to file suit against the NBA for $1 billion over the ban.
Ballmer's ownership will still need a final approval from the NBA, but there doesn't appear to be anything holding that back. Ballmer is coming out strong against Sterling's views as well, promising that his ownership will make the team an even bigger part of its city. "LA is one of the world's great cities," Ballmer says, "a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness."
The Clippers are selling for the highest price of any NBA team to date. According to the Los Angeles Times, the largest NBA sale prices so far have been $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks and $534 for the Sacramento Kings. Now, however, prices are jumping as owners begin to realize just how lucrative television rights can be. The Clippers' current TV contract reportedly expires after the 2015–2016 season, giving Ballmer a near-immediate chance to see big gains.
Update May 30th, 10AM: this article has been updated to reflect Ballmer's finalized purchase of the Clippers. It previously reported on his bid, pegged at $1.8 billion by Forbes, and later his unconfirmed purchase reported at $2 billion by the LA Times.