Episode 36: The LA Clippers

In honor of the start of NBA playoffs, Ben & David venture off the beaten path to explore one of Steve Ballmer’s most famous acquisitions, his 2014 purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise. Was this landmark purchase a steal or a turnover for the former Microsoft CEO? We speculate wildly!

Topics covered include:

  • The Clippers’ founding in 1970 as the NBA expansion team the Buffalo Braves
  • Early ownership changes and the move west to San Diego in 1981
  • Acquisition in 1981 by LA lawyer and real estate developer Donald Sterling for $12.5M
  • Sterling's relocation of the Clippers to LA in 1984 against NBA rules
  • Struggles over the next 25 years as the "worst franchise in professional sports” according to ESPN 
  • Turnaround beginning in early 2010s led by Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Chris Paul
  • The bombshell in April 2014, reported by TMZ, of a taped conversation between Sterling and his mistress where Sterling makes hugely offensive and racist comments, directed in particular toward former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson
  • Fallout from the comments, resulting in a lifetime ban from NBA for Sterling, and a forced sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer for $2B
  • Impact of the landmark sale price on NBA and other sports franchise valuations 
  • Clippers performance post-sale, and  prospects for the future 
  • The opportunity for technology and business model innovation in the NBA, and professional sports in general

Followups:

The Carve Out: