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Basketball: League discussing US$2b sale of Clippers

The NBA is ready to review ex-Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer's US$2 billion deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, but said a meeting to terminate Donald Sterling's ownership is still on.

LOS ANGELES: The National Basketball Association (NBA) is ready to review ex-Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer's US$2 billion deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, but said on Friday a meeting to terminate Donald Sterling's ownership is still on.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said Commissioner Adam Silver would welcome a voluntary sale of the team by Donald Sterling and his wife, Shelly.

"Commissioner Silver has consistently said the preferred outcome to the Clippers proceeding would be a voluntary sale of the team," Bass said in a statement.

"Shelly Sterling advised the NBA last night that an agreement had been reached with Steve Ballmer, and the NBA advisory/finance committee met via conference call this morning to discuss these developments."

As the league awaits the necessary documents from Shelley Sterling, the June 3 board of governors meeting "remains as scheduled," Bass added.

Ballmer and Shelly Sterling issued a joint statement shortly before midnight saying they had signed an agreement for Ballmer to purchase the club for an NBA record of US$2 billion.

Sterling said she was acting as sole trustee of the family, which owns the team, although a lawyer for her husband had earlier said that Donald Sterling still had to sign off on any deal and might fight it.

The league had scheduled Tuesday's board of governor's hearing in order to vote on whether to strip Donald Sterling of the club for racist conduct detrimental to the league.

Silver has already banned Donald Sterling for life and fined him US$2.5 million for racially charged comments he made in a private conversation with girlfriend V Stiviano leaked onto the TMZ.com website in April.

His rambling attempt at a televised apology on CNN only fueled the controversy, and ESPN reported that Shelly Sterling had gained sole control of the family trust after two doctors found that her husband was mentally incapacitated.

Shelly Sterling expressed confidence the Ballmer sale would go ahead.

"I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner," she said.

The price tag for a team that has never won a championship would set an NBA record - well above the record US$550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks in April.

It would mark a massive financial return for Sterling on a club he purchased in 1981 for just US$12 million.

The 58-year-old Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft from 2000 until February this year, said he loves basketball and will do "everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win - and win big - in Los Angeles."

With those comments, Ballmer reassured Clippers fans that he wouldn't move the team to Seattle, where he had once hoped to relocate the NBA's Sacramento Kings.

Three quarters of the other 29 owners must ratify any sale, but the process could move quickly since Ballmer was vetted by the league when he tried to buy the Kings.

NBA great Magic Johnson, a beloved figure in Los Angeles after his tenure with the Lakers, welcomed the Ballmer deal via Twitter.

"Steve Ballmer owning the Clippers is a big win for the City of LA and all the people who live in the City of Angels!" wrote Johnson, who was among those mentioned as potential bidders for the club.

Johnson joined with the Guggenheim group to buy baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 for US$2.1 billion.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also welcomed the deal.

"I know all LA fans will join me in putting the past behind us and looking forward to a new and winning era for the Clippers," Garcetti said.

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