Who did Steve Ballmer beat out to buy the Clippers?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the reported sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, other groups in the bidding fell by the wayside. Who were the most serious bidders?

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The Los Angeles Clippers appear to be nearing a sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, but he wasn't the only prominent name in the competitive bidding war for Donald Sterling's NBA franchise. A pair of other groups also made significant offers for the team, including one headed by David Geffen, Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey.

However, with the pending sale to Ballmer, Geffen confirmed to ESPN's Darren Rovell that his group withdrew its offer for the team, signaling that the deal will likely go through. According to past reports, the Geffen-led group offered $1.6 billion for the team, significantly less than the $2 billion reportedly offered by Ballmer.

As the Clippers saga appears to be nearing one potential conclusion, let's take a look at the non-Ballmer bidders for the team:

David Geffen, Larry Ellison, Oprah Winfrey

Other than Ballmer, nobody else had the same combination of reputation and financial resources. A group headed by Geffen, Ellison and Oprah was understandably considered a serious option for the franchise.

Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, a computer technology company, is one of the wealthiest people in the world. According to Forbes, he's currently valued at approximately $52 billion, well above the net worth of any current NBA franchise ownership.

That immense wealth didn't lead to the highest bid, however, and it appears that will cost Ellison and company. With a bid roughly $400 million below Ballmer's, it won't be enough.

The group included executives from Guggenheim Group, who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers with Magic Johnson. However, Johnson was not a part of the Clippers' bid, even though initial reports suggested he was interested.

Tony Ressler, Bruce Karsh, Grant Hill

We needed at least one former NBA player in the mix, and that came via former All-Star Grant Hill and his group, which was also led by Los Angeles-based investors Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh. Both longtime residents of Southern California, the two billionaires added financial punch to Hill's leaguewide respect.

With that said, the group reportedly only offered $1.2 billion, well below the bids placed by both the Ballmer- and Geffen-led partnerships. While the names involved certainly deserved attention, nobody was expecting the Sterling family to accept anything but the highest possible offer.

Unlike with the Geffen group, we haven't heard about Hill and company pulling their offer yet, but it may not matter considering the apparent direction of things.


Sterling bought the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million. While the capital gains tax will likely put a major dent in Sterling's return, he'll be leaving the NBA with quite a bit of profit in his pocket. That is, assuming the deal goes through.


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