LA Clippers

One thing you may have noticed about Wall Street is that the very top people, with money to spend and no obligation to come into the office, love to buy sports teams. Unfortunately, not all of them are so great at actually owning these teams. Oh sure, they show up for the games, and wear the hats, and maybe even improve concession stand offerings. But do they dance with the mascots? Choreograph a half-time routine with the cheerleaders? The answers are no and no, and what that says to the fans and players is, “My heart’s not fully in this.” Even worse, a significant number of would-be owners don’t know the first thing about acquiring one of these organizations, be it baseball, basketball, football, or hockey, as evidenced by their being rebuffed time and time again.

One guy who does know a little something about getting what he wants vis-à-vis sports teams? Microsoft CEO-turned-LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, whose process is outlined by the Journal. For the naysayers, know this: It has nothing to do with being the highest bidder and everything to do with fist-pumping enthusiasm. For those who’ve come to accept that they’re never going to own a team of their own without help: Sit. Listen.

Rule No. 1: Don’t think, just do: Thirty minutes before meeting the basketball team he bought for $2 billion, Steve Ballmer was pacing a Starbucks parking lot on Wilshire Boulevard. His black Chevy SUV was headed to Beverly Hills, where he would face the players and coaches of the Los Angeles Clippers for the first time. He had never been to an event like this, he said later, and felt both elated and anxious. To avoid arriving early, he stopped for a giant ice tea. “What are the dynamics with basketball stars?” he asked himself as he paced. “I’m used to software developers.” […] His Clippers purchase had closed five days earlier, but watching the billions exit his bank account had been strangely anticlimactic. Now, just before the Aug. 17 dinner, he felt the weight of what he had done. “I don’t have the first clue about being an owner” of a sports team, he thought.

Rule No. 2: Dream big: Mr. Ballmer compiled spreadsheets to determine profit in three years. Among the factors: revenue from sponsorships, ticket sales and local and national media with two media contracts coming up soon—and costs including NBA fees and players. “I priced it at a multiple of earnings, based on what I think I can do to make this work,” Mr. Ballmer said. “It’s aspirational, high-achievement, high-performance, but not insane.”

Rule No. 3: Give little old ladies what they want: Read more »

He may not even be allowed to set foot in the Staples Center parking lot on game nights, but Donald Sterling is motivated by a much higher force: spite. Strong, powerful spite. Strong enough to contemptuously dismiss an offer nearly four times as high as any received by an NBA team in history. Strong enough to cling to the Clippers despite being banned from the league for the rest of his declining years. And strong enough to force his family trust into default and a probable fire-sale of real estate just to deny Shelly Sterling the satisfaction of making him $1 billion richer. Read more »

Donald Sterling told a judge his fight to block the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer is about economics, not ego. “You think I’m doing this for ego?” Sterling asked a lawyer for his wife, Shelly Sterling, during one of many testy exchanges on the second day of a trial to determine whether she had sole authority to sell the National Basketball Association team after having her husband declared incapacitated. Sterling, 80, said he was negotiating a new cable-television contract with 21st Century Fox Inc. and that television providers’ demand for content would continue to drive up the value of sports franchises. The Clippers’ success on the court this year also has created interest from several radio stations to carry the games, he testified. “My wife can’t run anything,” Sterling told a state probate judge in Los Angeles who is deciding the case without a jury. “Of course I believe the team is worth more.” [Bloomberg]

Two weeks ago, former Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons was named interim CEO of the LA Clippers, following the broadcasting of some unintelligible racist rambling that were somehow supposed to be foreplay by its owner, Donald Sterling. Over at Deadspin today, you will find a long investigative piece on Parsons’s career. It has nothing to do with his time at Citi, or at Time Warner, or at Dime Savings Bank of New York, or Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler before that.

Instead, it’s about his college basketball career at the University of Hawaii. The issue is that while Parons has spoken extensively over the years about his days on the court, it appears that there are no records of anyone with his name playing basketball at the school during his time there, nor do any of the players remember him, making statements by Parsons like, “I did okay in the fall semester, ’cause there was basketball, right?” and ” The basketball team became my extended family and my friends” slightly troubling, as are comments about how his grades suffered because he was too busy working and playing basketball, in addition to the many past profiles that talk about his days on the team.

All of this might lead one (or many) to conclude that, at least when it comes to this subject, Dick Parsons is a pathological liar (or, for unclear reasons, there is a vast Hawaiian conspiracy to bury Parsons’s basketball career). If you’re not ready to write the guy off, though, and personally, we are not, there seem to be some obvious and, we might add, entirely believable explanations that clear everything up. Read more »