Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer agreed to pay $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday, which stands to be the most ever paid for an NBA franchise.
The person, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said Shelly Sterling — who last week received written authority from husband Donald Sterling to sell the team — had a signed contract with Ballmer that was sent to the NBA for approval. At least three-quarters of the league's owners must approve the sale.
The person said Donald Sterling does not have to sign off on the agreement with Ballmer, but Sterling's attorney has maintained that no sale can occur without his approval. Sterling and his wife each hold 50 percent shares of the team.
The sale price would shatter the previous record paid for an NBA team, $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this month. It would be the second-highest price for a sports franchise in North America, trailing only the $2.1 billion paid for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012.
Shelly Sterling had pushed to find a buyer before Tuesday, when league owners are scheduled to vote on whether to terminate the Sterlings' ownership. The NBA declined to comment Thursday night.
Silver announced on April 29 that he would force a sale of the Clippers after Sterling was heard in an audio recording making racist remarks about African-Americans in a private conversation with his companion, V. Stiviano. The recording was leaked months later to the gossip site TMZ, prompting Silver to ban Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million.
In a scathing 32-page response to the league, Sterling argued that his comments occurred in a private conversation that was illegally recorded under California law, and that he had not broken any NBA rules.
Ballmer, who was chief executive of Microsoft for 14 years, beat out other bidders that included Los Angeles-based investors Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh and a group that included David Geffen, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Ellison and executives from the Guggenheim Group, the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ballmer was part of a group headed by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen that bid last year to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle. But Ballmer toldThe Wall Street Journal earlier this month that he would not want to move the Clippers, should he buy them, because that would hurt the team's value.
Brent Schrotenboer is an investigative and enterprise reporter for USA TODAY Sports. Contact him on Twitter or via e-mail.