Up to five bidders are expected to offer up to $ 2 billion, and possibly more, for the Los Angeles Clippers in a hurried sale that could be largely settled as early as Wednesday afternoon, according to two people involved in the process.
As a 2 p.m. deadline passed for bids, two people with knowledge of the bid process said the would-be owners were likely to offer as much as four times what has been paid previously for an NBA team. The Milwaukee Bucks recently sold for a record $ 550 million earlier this month.
“We were told this was the only bid process that would exist and that they are going to make a decision based on these initial offers,” said the representative of one prospective buyer, who asked not to be named. “It’s hard to believe they are not going to come back and try to get some extra money out of people after the first round. But that is what they said.”
The sale process, guided by team co-owner Shelly Sterling, comes a little more than a month after her husband, Donald Sterling, touched off a furor with his racially inflammatory remarks in which he told a companion he did not want to see her with blacks at Clippers games.
Donald Sterling, 80, wrote to the NBA a week ago and said he had authorized his wife of 58 years to negotiate with the league and potential buyers in connection with the sale of the team.
Bidders were also trying to make sense of statements from Donald Sterling’s lawyer late Tuesday. Attorney Maxwell Blecher said that despite Sterling’s letter to the NBA, he would not support his wife’s sale of the team and planned to stage a prolonged fight to maintain ownership. Two bidders said they still believed the sale would go ahead.
One development in the sale — timed to beat the league’s Tuesday hearing to oust both Sterlings from the team — is that Shelly Sterling appears to have agreed to relinquish her bid to maintain part ownership of the team.
The half owner, who is 79, had hoped to maintain a stake of up to one-third of the Clippers. But the “term sheet” the bidders responded to before Wednesday’s deadline was for 100% of the franchise, which is held in the Sterlings’ family trust.
Among the likely bidders are:
— A group that includes Chicago-based Guggenheim Partners, which bought the Dodgers two years ago for more than $ 2 billion. Guggenheim has joined with a trio of billionaires who previously said they would launch their own bid for the Clippers: Oracle software co-founder Larry Ellison, entertainment magnate David Geffen and mega-entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey.
— A partnership with ties to major league sports: Tony Ressler, the Los Angeles-based co-founder of the investment firm Ares Management and a minority owner of baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers; Bruce Karsh, co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management and a minority owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and chairman of Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times; and Grant Hill, a former NBA All-Star who finished his career with the Clippers.
— Steve Ballmer, the former chief executive of Microsoft, who left in February after leading the company for 14 years. Ballmer last year joined a group, led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, to bid on the Sacramento Kings and intended to move the team to Seattle. NBA owners voted to reject the proposed move.
— A group backed by money from Middle Eastern investors. Individuals familiar with the other bidders said they knew less about this group, which has previously expressed an interest in entering the Los Angeles sports market.
Shelly Sterling’s advisors have told bidders they expect to announce a winner expeditiously, though they did not specify a time for their decision.
The NBA’s other 29 owners will have to sign off on any sale made by the Sterlings. Three-quarters of the owners must approve the deal.
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