Meet Steve Ballmer, the man who bid $2 billion to buy the L.A. Clippers

The NBA has announced that former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has closed the deal on his record $2 billion purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers and is now owner of the team. Here's what you should know about him. (The Washington Post)

 

Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer walked away from a meeting with Shelly Sterling as the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers thanks to a winning bid of $2 billion.

“I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Ballmer said in a release Thursday night. “I love basketball. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win – and win big – in Los Angeles. LA is one of the world’s great cities – a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness. I am confident that the Clippers will in the coming years become an even bigger part of the community. I thank Shelly Sterling for her willingness to entrust the Clippers franchise to me, and I am grateful to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his colleagues for working collaboratively with me throughout this process.”

 

Ballmer has wanted to be an NBA owner for some time; he wanted to bring a team back to Seattle after the departure of the 2008 departure of the SuperSonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ballmer also tried to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle in a deal that eventually went south.

But assuming the team is his — pending the NBA’s approval — Ballmer has no intention of moving it.

“If I get interested in the Clippers, it would be for Los Angeles,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “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.”

Magic Johnson, who was reportedly interested in buying the team, greeted the news with enthusiasm:

 

Ballmer’s 14-year tenure as chief executive of Microsoft was not regarded with much reverence. After all, he’s the guy who laughed at the iPhone and gave the world Windows Vista (which he later acknowledged was a mistake).  In 2011, he had a 35 percent employee approval rating according to Glassdoor and, in 2012, Forbes contributor Adam Hartung wrote a scathing review of Ballmer’s tenure at Microsoft, calling him the “the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company today.”

“Although he’s #19 on Forbes list of billionaires, Mr. Ballmer should not be allowed to take such incredible risks with investor money and employee jobs,” Hartung wrote. “Best he be retired to enjoy his fortune rather than deprive investors and employees of building theirs.” It should be noted: Multiple tech publications came to Ballmer’s defense (sort of) following Hartung’s criticism.

If nothing else, Ballmer gets massive points for charisma. His intensity has been widely documented, like the time he got so animated about Windows that he ripped his vocal cords and had to have them surgically repaired. Ann Livermore, a former executive vice-president at Hewlett-Packard, once called him “the kind of businessman most companies either wish they had working for them or wish they didn’t have to deal with,” according to the Seattle Times.

We’ve compiled some of the most notable moments from the life of Microsoft’s “Monkeyboy.” Have a look-see:

If Forbes ever does a list of the world’s kookiest billionaires, he’s a shoo-in for the top five. 

If Ballmer brings half this much enthusiasm to Clippers games, what’s the point of the team’s Spirit dance squad? The man is a self-contained pep rally. Who gets that excited about Windows? Steve Ballmer, that’s who.

Then there was the time Ballmer, who spent 34 years working for Microsoft, signed a kid’s Macbook. Maybe he’ll sign Lakers jerseys, too!

In 2009, he created a “secretTwitter account. It is utterly unremarkable. This is his most popular tweet. He’s referring to Kiev Polytechnic Institute, where he delivered a speech in 2010.

 

He and Bill Gates are best buds. Well, they were until it was time for Ballmer to leave Microsoft, anyway. Kara Swisher says his departure was sped up by Microsoft’s board and then Gates himself. Somehow, pictures of them together always look like prime candidates for Awkward Family Photos.


Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, right, and Ballmer in 2006. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

He described the bromance to the Telegraph in 2007: “Partners, spouses, whatever, we participated together in giving birth to this amazing thing called Microsoft. We always work well together, we do not always agree, we always work through our disagreements. That is why I say there is a certain husband-wife, brothers thing, where you have an ability to agree, resolve issues, a fundamental respect, admiration, good feeling. All that lets you make one plus one equal three, in terms of getting the best from two people.”


Gates and Ballmer talk to reporters in 1998. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)

Sometimes, even their philanthropy matches up. Gates and Ballmer are both proponents of marriage equality. In 2012, they donated $100,000 each to Washington United for Marriage. The New York Times might have the best characterization of the duo: “One C.E.O., treated to a good-cop, bad-cop routine from Bill Gates and Ballmer, called the pair ‘the Pearly Gates and the Em-balmer: one sets you up for heaven and the other prepares you for death.’”


“Pearly Gates” and the “Em-balmer.” (Reuters)

He is the only non-”American Idol” contestant ever to be this excited to meet Ryan Seacrest.


Steve Ballmer and Ryan Seacrest of “American Idol” during the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Even Seacrest doesn’t know what to make of it.


Seacrest, left, hugs Ballmer. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Like Miley Cyrus, he sometimes has trouble keeping his tongue in his mouth. Miley twerks (or does her best approximation of it). Ballmer gets geeked over ringing the bell that opens the Nasdaq. When you think about it, it’s the same thing, really.


LEFT: Ballmer in 2006. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)
RIGHT: Miley Cyrus arrives at the opening of Beacher’s Mad House Las Vegas. (Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)

We’re serious about the tongue thing. It’s a habit:


Ballmer, right, applauds as he rings the Nasdaq opening bell to begin trading on Nov. 30, 2006. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

 


Ballmer and tongue. (REUTERS/Tony Ranze)

His eye-roll rivals Bill Cosby’s:

(Source: YouTube/Photo by Reuters)
(Source: YouTube/Photo by Reuters)

His eye-roll is better than his bellowing. According to a 2013 readwrite Q-and-A with Microsoft veteran Joachim Kempin, Ballmer used to bring baseball bats to meetings:

Let me start with how Steve sometimes walks down the hallways bouncing a basketball. Or if he’s having a really good day he’s swinging a baseball bat. Do you think that sends a signal? Sometimes he brings it with him into the conference room. Is it symbolic? Maybe. I don’t know. I would never do that. For me it doesn’t send the right message. The man has some nervous energy and that’s how he gets rid of it. Have I heard him yelling? Yeah, I have. Most of the time he apologizes afterwards. He’s just a very high-strung guy. He’s not a bad guy. He just goes overboard sometimes.

Congratulations, Los Angeles Clippers. You’re about to be owned by this guy:

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Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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