A lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine won’t significantly hurt Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s net worth. In fact, Sterling could sell his team for more than double the record sale price for an NBA franchise.
Forbes estimates the 80-year-old's fortune at $1.9 billion. Sterling could stand to add to that number with the sale of the Clippers.
Sterling was banned for life from the NBA on Tuesday by Commissioner Adam Silver following the release of an audio recording in which Sterling made racist remarks about blacks. Silver has stated he will ask the league's other 29 owners to force Sterling to sell the Clippers after he admitted to making the comments to his former girlfriend.
Should Sterling ultimately accept the ban and sell the team he purchased for $12.5 million in 1981, he could probably get more than double the record sale price for an NBA franchise. In its most recent valuations of NBA organizations, the Clippers were ranked No. 13 at $575 million by Forbes, with revenue of $128 million, and a profit of $15 million.
However, in the last year, the Milwaukee Bucks were sold for $550 million and the Sacramento Kings went for $534. Both of those cities are much smaller television markets than Los Angeles.
The Clippers, loaded with stars like point guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, could command as much as $1 billion when taking into account the size of their current market, and the potential for a new TV rights deal. The Clippers' current deal with Fox Sports expires after the 2015-16 season, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Major League Baseball’s L.A. Dodgers were purchased for $2.15 billion by NBA legend Magic Johnson and his partners at Guggenheim Baseball, who then sold the team’s television rights for $8.35 billion to Time Warner Cable.
The L.A. Lakers agreed to a 20-year television deal with Time Warner in 2011, and it’s worth a reported $122 million annually, the richest TV-rights deal in the NBA.
Silver stated that Sterling admitted it was his voice in a leaked recording during which he made racist comments and told his former girlfriend, V. Stiviano, not to bring black people to Clippers games and not to post pictures with blacks on her Instagram account.
Silver needs three-fourths of the owners, or 22, to oust Sterling, and recent statements from the Dallas Mavericks' Mark Cuban, the Chicago Bulls' Jerry Reinsdorf and the Houston Rockets' Leslie Alexander indicate the real estate mogul’s days in the NBA could be numbered.
Before Silver handed down the ban, Sterling told longtime sports reporter Jim Gray in a phone conversation that he had no plans to sell the team, but he might not have a choice.