The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is complete, NBA officials said Tuesday after months of legal battles involving long-time Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his wife.
The finalization of the $2 billion transaction already approved by NBA owners marks the end of Donald Sterling's run as the league's longest-tenured owner and the beginning of a new era for the Clippers and their fans, who remained loyal during what Ballmer described as "some extraordinary times."
In a statement issued Tuesday, the NBA said: "The transaction in which Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers closed today following the entry of an order by a California court confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the team. The NBA Board of Governors previously approved the sale and Ballmer is now the Clippers Governor."
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"I'm really, really happy that it was sold today. I hate losing the team, but it’s going to a wonderful person who's going to make us all proud," Shelly Sterling said during an afternoon press conference. "I know he’s going to bring a championship to this city."
Shelly Sterling negotiated the $2 billion deal with Ballmer and signed an agreement May 29. Shelly Sterling said she was initially given her husband's blessing to sell the team, but Donald Sterling later refused to sign the deal and challenged in court her right to negotiate the sale.
The path to approval appeared clear after a judge in the case ruled against him last month. During an interview earlier this month, Ballmer was cautious about calling the team his own -- despite the court ruling -- but issued a statement Tuesday in which he praised Clippers fans for their patience and expressed excitement about the future of one of the league's most-promising franchises.
"I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers," Ballmer said in a statement. "Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA."
Ballmer plans to meet with fans Aug. 18 when the team has scheduled a Fan Festival at Staples Center.
Shelly Sterling said she is "thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner."
Attorneys for Sterling and Ballmer said the deal was finalized at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, said at the news conference that Donald Sterling had filed a petition opposing the sale. O'Donnell called it a "desperate act" and said he was confident the court of appeals would not take the case.
The legal quarrel continued until late last week when Donald Sterling's petition with a state appeals court requesting an order blocking the proposed sale was denied. An attorney for Ballmer said the sale was completed after the court order was signed.
"Judge (Michael) Levanas signed his court order authorizing the sale even if Donald Sterling filed an appeal and we were ready," attorney Adam Streisand said in a statement Tuesday. "Within minutes, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered."
Donald Sterling, who purchased the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million, has been under pressure since April to sell the team since the release of recorded conversations with companion V. Stiviano that included racist comments. The wealthy real estate mogul chastised Stiviano for bringing black men to Clippers games.
The NBA commissioner moved to oust the 80-year-old Sterling in the days after the recording's release as fans, current and former players and others called for action.
The league put those efforts on hold pending a decision on Shelly Sterling's ability to sell the franchise. The transfer to Ballmer hit a stumbling block when Donald Sterling contended he had been duped by his wife into submitting to medical tests as part of a plot to have him ousted from the trust so the sale could move forward.
Two doctors examined Donald Sterling and determined him to be mentally incapacitated. At issue during the trial of Sterling v. Sterling was whether Shelly Sterling acted within guidelines established by the Sterling Family Trust when she negotiated the deal, which the judge refused to block.
The trial included several outbursts from Donald Sterling, who lashed out at his wife, her attorneys and his attorneys. He also vowed to sue the league until the day he dies.
An attorney for Donald Sterling, Maxwell M. Blecher, said Tuesday his client will not be issuing a statement regarding the NBA's announcement.