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Steve Ballmer to buy Clippers for $2 billion, reports say

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Updated at 9:10 p.m.

Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has won the bidding for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, submitting an NBA record $2 billion offer, the Los Angeles Times and ESPN report. Among others who submitted bids were L.A. investors Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh and a group that included Oprah Winfrey and entertainment mogul David Geffen.

The Geffen group submitted a bid of $1.6 billion and Ressler/Karsh came in at $1.2 billion, according to the Times. Ballmer’s $2 billion offer is a record for an NBA team, easily topping the $550 million paid this month for the Milwaukee Bucks and it is second only to the $2.1 billion the Guggenheim partners (with Magic Johnson) paid for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

ESPN confirmed the Ballmer deal Thursday night after Geffen told the network that his group had formally withdrawn from the bidding. “There is now a signed, binding agreement between Ballmer and the Sterling family trust to sell the Clippers for $2billion,” ESPN reporter Ramona Shelburne tweeted.

Now comes the tricky part. Although Donald Sterling’s attorney had vowed that he would “fight to the bloody end” to retain the team he has owned since 1981, he signed a letter a week ago authorizing his wife and team co-owner, Shelly, to listen to offers for the team.

A meeting of the NBA Board of Governors is set for Tuesday and owners are expected to listen to vote whether to strip him of ownership of the team then. Sterling, who has been under fire since his racist comments came to light in late April, still must sign off the deal and Ballmer’s lawyer told ESPN on Thursday evening that he had not done so yet. The other 29 NBA owners must approve it as well.

Ballmer has promised not to move the team to Seattle, where he lives and which has not had a team since the Sonics left to become the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The businessman said in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that he had no intention of moving the Clippers. He said that the high valuations for the team only made sense in Los Angeles—the second biggest media market in the country. Ballmer, who has a net worth estimated at $20 billion, tried unsuccessfully to purchase the Sacramento Kings last year.

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Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll took to Twitter to praise the Clippers’ potential new owner.

More on Donald Sterling and the Clippers:

Fancy Stats: Why the Clippers are worth $2 billion Meet the most hated man in America: Donald Sterling

NBA Board of Governors to meet June 3

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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