The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer was approved Tuesday afternoon, meaning Donald Sterling is now officially out as the owner of the team he purchased in 1981.
“The transaction in which Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers closed today following the entry of an order by a California court confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the team,” the NBA announced in a brief statement. “The NBA Board of Governors previously approved the sale and Ballmer is now the Clippers Governor.”
Ballmer agreed to purchase the franchise for a whopping $2 billion in May, after Sterling came under fire for racist (and sexist) comments he made on an audio recording published in parts by TMZ and Deadspin. In the recordings, Sterling told his girlfriend not to bring black people, including NBA legend and Los Angeles Dodgers part owner Magic Johnson, with her to his games. Sterling originally denied the comments. He later attempted to apologize in a televised interview in which he only made them worse by saying that Johnson should not be a role model because he is HIV-positive.
Sterling was condemned across the league by players, including members of the Clippers who staged a protest before a playoff game against the Golden State Warriors, and fellow owners. NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced shortly after that he would ban Sterling for life and seek approval from the NBA Board of Governors to strip Sterling of his ownership.
A California court ruled in July that Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling’s estranged wife, had the authority to negotiate the sale to Ballmer on behalf of the family’s trust.
The sale is the by far the most expensive for a franchise in NBA history, and can be explained in part by the success of NBA owners during the last lockout of players and an expected windfall from new television deals.
The sale also means that the 2014-2015 NBA season should begin uninterrupted by protests from players like Clippers guard Chris Paul, the president of the NBA players union who said in July that he and Clippers coach Doc Rivers had discussed the possibility of a boycott if Sterling still owned the team when the season began.