With Clippers deal in hand, Ballmer turns focus to fans

Tue Aug 12, 2014 10:38pm EDT
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By Eric Kelsey and Ronald Grover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Steve Ballmer, the former head of Microsoft MSFT.O, completed a $2 billion purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team on Tuesday, ending an ugly saga involving former owner Donald Sterling who was banned for life over racist remarks.

The 58-year-old tech billionaire has vowed to make the team a pillar in the community after Sterling's comments published nearly four months sparked public outrage, caused sponsors to quit and players to consider a boycott during the Clippers' playoff run.

"The Clippers franchise is a true public trust, and my goal is that the Clippers will play an ever-increasing role in the life of our community," Ballmer said in an open letter to fans.

"I pledge this: I will be hard core in my commitment to give the team the support it needs to be its best on and off the court," he added.

The NBA-record deal closed at around 9 a.m. (1600 GMT), after Ballmer's attorney, Adam Streisand, picked up an order from a Los Angeles probate court confirming that Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly, had the right to sell the team, Streisand said.

Sterling, who has owned the team for 33 years, has asked a California appeals court to halt the deal, saying he believed the probate court ruled too broadly in letting the sale be completed before his appeal could be heard.

The NBA still faces civil lawsuits in California and U.S. courts from Sterling, who says the league's actions relied on illegal evidence and violated corporate law in its attempts to have the team sold.

The NBA has filed a counterclaim in federal court alleging Sterling's behavior has damaged the league and that Shelly Sterling has given the league legal indemnity from her husband.   Continued...

Shelly Sterling (C), her lawyer Pierce O'Donnell (R), and Steve Ballmer's lawyer Adam Streisand (2nd R) speak at a news conference to discuss the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer in Los Angeles, California August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson