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 »