In the days and weeks after Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life, seemingly every wealthy person in the America stated their interest in buying the team. From Floyd Mayweather to Oprah Winfrey to Johnson, dozens tossed their names into the ring. It appears former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will win the Clippers sweepstakes after his reported $2 billion offer topped the rest, though the sale has yet to be finalized and still must be approved by Sterling and then vetted by NBA owners.
Who exactly is Steve Ballmer? The former Microsoft CEO is a huge basketball fan, and this isn't his first attempt to become an NBA owner.
The 58-year-old Ballmer was born and raised in Detroit. He excelled in school from an early age, taking college graduate math courses while he was in high school and scoring a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT, according to the New York Times. After graduating, he headed off to Harvard for college where he would eventually graduate with honors.
This isn't the case of a billionaire who happens to buy a basketball team. Instead, Ballmer is a basketball fan who happens to be a billionaire. He once described himself as a basketball "gym rat" according to Pablo Torre of ESPN. According to Torre, Ballmer tracked assists and rebounds of Harvard games for $12 a game.
While the $2 billion big is an astronomical number, especially considering the next-highest purchase price of an NBA team was Milwaukee at $550 million, it not an astronomical number for Ballmer. He had an estimated net worth of $18 billion in September of 2013, according to Forbes. That made him the 21st-richest person in the world.
Ballmer joined Microsoft as the company's first business manager in 1980. He went on to spend nearly 35 years with the company, rising to CEO in 2000 and retiring from in 2014. Ballmer made his fortune during his stint with the software giant while also developing a reputation as one of the most enthusiastic people you'll meet. His exorbitant and enthusiastic speeches are ... well, you can see for yourself. His enthusiasm and energy would put some NBA mascots and cheer squads to shame.
With his long career at Microsoft, Ballmer established roots in the Seattle area, leading him to have interest in the various Seattle NBA projects. Since his retirement earlier this year, he's no longer locked into Seattle and told the Wall Street journal he wouldn't move the Clippers:
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.
Interest in the NBA
Ballmer's bid on the Clippers is just his latest attempt to buy into the NBA. He joined an investment group in 2008 that tried to fund half of the renovation costs of KeyArena in an effort to keep the Sonics in Seattle before they moved to Oklahoma City. Ballmer was also the other big part of the Seattle investment group, led by Chris Hansen, that proposed a new downtown arena and attempted to purchase the Sacramento Kings.
While his two previous attempts to purchase an NBA team came up short, they were largely due to the NBA situation in Seattle instead of his credentials as an owner. Clay Bennett and his ownership group were set on moving the team, no matter what last-ditch effort Ballmer and the local investors could scrum up. His attempt with Hansen to buy the Kings came close, but the other owners eventually voted to sell to a local investment group and keep the team in Sacramento.
With his interest in basketball and massive wealth, he makes for an ideal ownership candidate. If his third attempt proves to be the charm, Ballmer would become the NBA's wealthiest owner, topping Portland's Paul Allen.