Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ballmer Baller

The best thing possible happened for the NBA Thursday*. former Microsoft CEO and billionaire Steve Ballmer apparently won the bidding for the Los Angeles Clippers, which the league wishes extracted from the palsied, racist claw of owner Donald Sterling, with an all-cash offer of roughly $2B dollars. Sterling, who has the chutzpah to demand the league pay his capital gains tax on an investment that went from $13M to $2B, makes out like a bandit, in that he will still clear somewhere north of a billion dollars when this is all over.

For the Clippers. The team that could not live without Michael Olowokandi. Let that sink in for a minute.

The league, meanwhile, benefits in a couple of ways. One is that Sterling is out. Two, the fact that a franchise that has consistently been moribund for the last few decades now has a valuation of $2B on it, which made every other league owner's property that much more valuable. (Remember that the next time someone whines that "the owners take all the risks". Assuming the number actually is two billion, Sterling is going to make $1.987 billion - that's billion - pre-tax dollars on his investment. Try to get that ROI from an index fund and see what happens. I dare you.) If the Clippers, who have no track record of success, are decisively the second team in their market, share a building and have an institutional history that can only be described as "sludge-filled wasteland", imagine what the Knicks are now worth. Or the Bulls. Or the Lakers.

Three, the new owner (if this goes through) will be the aforementioned Steve Ballmer.

And as the ever-carnivorous tech press will be happy to remind you, that means the Clippers are most likely in for a period of strange decision making, vicious infighting, and weird employee evaluation tools. Which will no doubt help return the temporarily dethroned Lakers to their rightful spot atop the LA basketball hierarchy and restore balance to the universe.

Either that, or the Clippers are going to start having to do on-court stack rankings.

We'll see.

*Pending the result of possibly-demented Donald Sterling's announced slew of lawsuits against the NBA for everything except pushing him down at recess and taking his lunch money. It remains cogent at this point that Sterling is a voluntary member of a business association, operating as a franchisee, and that his case likely has as much legal merit as Bambi suing Godzilla for damages. Regardless, the NBA is going to want to kill this before it reaches discovery stage, because if that happens, then suddenly the whole world gets a look at the NBA's books, and nobody involved with professional sports wants that to happen. I, on the other hand, will make popcorn.
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