Steve Ballmer’s portfolio could have a lot more Los Angeles in it than the Clippers. And the city could be in for a big culture change.
Though it remains a whisper at this point, word has been going around that the soon-to-be Clippers owner may be in talks to acquire the Staples Center from AEG and the L.A. Arena Company, with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings included in the exchange. Our friend Marcus Bass wrote on Fully Clips that the former Microsoft CEO could be negotiating another billion-dollar deal, with the price rumored to be set at $1.5 billion.
The theory originated in an article on The Hockey News, which says that while Ballmer is reportedly against becoming owner of the Kings, it is a make-or-break point of the sale for AEG.
“If Ballmer were going to buy the Clippers for such a high price ($2 billion), it would make sense for him to own the building as well and not be a tenant,” Ken Campbell writes. “And if that means buying the Kings as part of the deal, then it might make sense.”
Before we go any further, it needs to be stated that no named sources have surfaced in relation to this story. At this point, the deal is nothing more than speculation.
As ESPN reporter Ramona Shelburne notes, relocation (to Seattle) is out of the question.
So there may actually be some sense to the idea, even if that’s all it is.
Serving as second-fiddle tenant in the arena isn’t propping up the Clippers’ worth, either. Even though the Lakers pay rent just like the rest of us, they raised all the banners and the Clippers are the ones covering them up.
May 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Actor and entertainer Billy Crystal attends game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Becoming landlord to the league’s most valuable franchise would represent another step in making Los Angeles a legitimate two-team town. Surely the team won’t gain even footing with the Lakers overnight just because the Buss family writes Ballmer a check every month. For the city to make a complete shift in sports culture, the team will have to put up a few championship banners of its own.
The franchise has already begun raising its profile by attracting a band of celebrity fans including Billy Crystal and Jason Sudeikis. Even Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson couldn’t help but take in a Clips playoff game this year with his Lakers sitting at home.
However far away Los Angeles is from fully embracing the Clippers, here’s what a hypothetical timeline of events could look like:
- 1970-2011: Clippers makes the playoffs seven times, never reaching the Conference Finals
- December 2011: David Stern waves his magic wand, nixing a Chris-Paul-to-the-Lakers trade in favor of a Chris-Paul-to-the-Clippers deal from the league-owned New Orleans Hornets
- 2011-2014: Paul-led Clips record the three best seasons in team history
- Spring 2014: Adam Silver bans Sterling, Ballmer submits winning bid to become Clippers’ owner
- Summer 2014: Ballmer buys the Kings and Staples Center, making it the Clippers’ actual home and Lakers their tenants
- 2015 and beyond: Los Angeles becomes Clipperstown (or whatever-new-nickname-the-team-decides-town)
- 20??: Lakers move back to the Forum???
May 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Recording artist and entertainer Justin Bieber (left) and actor Mark Wahlberg attend game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
At $2 billion, Ballmer already overpaid to become owner of the Clippers. New national and local media rights deals for the 2016-17 season that have yet to be signed will mitigate some of that value. Though Ballmer’s total price could jump to $3.5 billion with the AEG deal, he would be paying more now to open up critical revenue streams in the future including L.A. Live, concerts and other events.
There are probably hundreds of contracts yet to be signed, Donald Sterling’s lawsuit against the NBA/himself to settle, and an owners vote before we can even call Ballmer the team’s owner.
It might not be long after that he turns Los Angeles red and blue.