Grant Hill Group Said to Bid $1.2 Billion for Clippers

Donald and Shelly Sterling
Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling, wife of managing partner Donald Sterling, who was banned by the NBA for making racist statements, has been presiding over the sale. Photographer: John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

A group including Ares Management Chairman Tony Ressler, Oaktree Capital’s Bruce Karsh and former All-Star player Grant Hill bid $1.2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers, a person with direct knowledge of the process said.

The person asked not to be identified because the bidding is private. Attorneys for Clippers co-owners Donald and Shelly Sterling didn’t return calls yesterday to their offices.

Another person with direct knowledge said five bids were submitted yesterday.

Former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said in an e-mail he made a binding bid for the National Basketball Association team without disclosing the amount. Forbes, citing a person familiar with Ballmer’s interest in the team, said he offered $1.8 billion.

Ballmer would live in Los Angeles part time if his bid is successful and not try to move the Clippers to Seattle, the person familiar with the bids said.

Ballmer was part of a group that tried to buy the NBA’s Sacramento Kings last year and move them to Seattle. NBA owners rejected the move and the Kings were sold to a group that kept them in Sacramento. Seattle hasn’t had an NBA team since the Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 and became the Thunder.

Prospective owners of the Clippers were told to submit their bids by yesterday and the plan is to pick a winner by June 2, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation. The people asked not to be identified because the process isn’t public.

Shelly Sterling is the wife of Clippers managing partner Donald Sterling, who was banned by the NBA for making racist statements, and has been presiding over the sale. Bank of America Corp. was retained to assist, people familiar with the process said. The NBA must approve any transfer of ownership.

NBA Vote

A number of suitors have been in talks with Shelly Sterling for the team. She wants at least $1 billion for the club that finished with the third-best record in the league this season, according to a person with direct knowledge of the sale process.

She must sell the team by June 3, when the league’s owners will convene and probably vote on Commissioner Adam Silver’s recommendation that the NBA assume control of the franchise and sell it. Twenty-three of 30 owners must approve the forced sale.

Donald Sterling, under league bylaws, has the right to address the owners on June 3 in New York. While his wife moves to sell the club, he told the NBA two days ago in a letter that he should be able to keep the team and called the league’s proceedings against him a “sham.”

“We do not believe a court in the United States of America will enforce the draconian penalties imposed on Mr. Sterling in these circumstances,” read the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

‘Lovers’ Quarrel’

Donald Sterling signed a May 22 letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg, to the NBA in which he says he authorizes Shelly Sterling to negotiate with the league regarding all issues in connection with a sale of the team.

Sterling said in the letter of two days ago that his remarks were illegally recorded during a “lovers’ quarrel” with another woman.

Among the other bidders for the Clippers is a group that includes music executive David Geffen, Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison, Oprah Winfrey and executives from Guggenheim Partners, owners of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hand-Delivered Bid

Andrew M. Gordon, of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Los Angeles office, presented the Geffen group’s bid in person, according to a person with direct knowledge of the process. Geffen declined to comment in an e-mail.

Pierce O’Donnell, the attorney for Shelly Sterling, and Max Blecher, the attorney for Donald Sterling, didn’t return calls.

ESPN reported that Blecher said Donald Sterling has no intention of selling and has grown stronger in his resolve to fight the NBA.

“He wants to retain the team and fight the NBA charges,” Blecher told ESPN.

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