Former Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer has reportedly agreed to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion from Shelly Sterling and her family’s trust, ending a month-long saga between the NBA and embattled and disgraced owner Donald Sterling.
With an estimated net worth of $20.7 billion, speculation has swirled as to whether Ballmer, 58, would move the Clippers from Los Angeles to Seattle.
While the prospect might be exciting to Seattle fans that greatly miss their formerly beloved SuperSonics, relocation appears unlikely.
Furthermore, moving a team that’s finally enjoying its first real string of successes in the second-largest media market in the U.S. would be an unwise business move, especially for a man who made his billions in the highly competitive and cutthroat world of technology.
Much of the speculation centers on Ballmer’s failed attempt to purchase the Sacramento Kings. Ballmer, along with investor Chris Hansen, originally headlined a group that hoped to purchase the Kings and move them to Seattle in 2013. But Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson lobbied the NBA and helped form a group of investors to counter Ballmer’s efforts. Ultimately, the Kings were purchased by billionaire Vivek Ranadivé for $534 million.
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Ballmer was also a staunch opponent of Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett’s efforts to relocate the SuperSonics in 2008, and he even offered to back the building of a new arena for the SuperSonics in Seattle.
Seattle is the No. 14-ranked television market in the country, compared to No. 2 for Los Angeles, and with the Clippers' current television deal with Fox Sports set to expire after the 2015-16 season, Ballmer could ink a far more lucrative rights deal in Southern California. Considering the Lakers signed a 20-year rights deal with Time Warner that reportedly earns the team in excess of $120 million annually, the Clippers and Ballmer could negotiate for a similar deal with superstars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul under contract for the next four seasons.
The Clippers also currently play in Staples Center, which opened in 1999, while Seattle is still in the process of acquiring land and financing for construction of a state-of-the-art arena for professional basketball and hockey, which was the main reason the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.
Then, of course, Ballmer would have to facilitate a complete rebranding of the Clippers, which might include the design and marketing of a new logo, as well as merchandising.
All told it would be a monumental, risky and costly effort that Ballmer is likely to pass on.