By Brent Stecker
News broke over the weekend that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer met with Clippers owner Shelly Sterling to discuss purchasing the Los Angeles-based NBA franchise.
On paper it doesn’t seem like the best turn of events for the hopes of bringing an NBA team to Seattle, as Ballmer has said publicly that he wouldn’t seek to move the Clippers if he ends up purchasing the franchise, and it would also mean his reported $15.2 billion net worth would leave Chris Hansen’s group that is attempting to bring an NBA team back to Seattle.
This latest development may not be as bad as it seems for Seattle, however, as King 5 reporter Chris Daniels said Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Danny” that having Ballmer in the ranks of NBA owners could be a positive for Seattle in the long run.
“If Steve Ballmer somehow gets control of the Clippers organization, you know he’s going to be the biggest cheerleader for Seattle,” Daniels said. “And for Seattle to get awarded an expansion franchise, or for the NBA to even talk about that, you’re going to have to have a good chunk of NBA owners who are going to want to buy into that, and Ballmer of course would be buying into a Seattle argument with all his weight behind him.”
The other potential issue of Ballmer’s bid for the Clippers is replacing his financial support in Hansen’s group and a proposed new arena in the SoDo neighborhood, but Daniels said that should be easier than it appears.
“On the surface it looks like a blow â€¦ (but) the way I understand it, financially not a blow to the group itself. Chris Hansen has been the majority investor in that land down there. The way the plan was put together for the purchase of the franchise, Chris Hansen had more money, more skin in the game than Steve Ballmer.”
Not only that, but there are plenty of lesser-known people in the area with similarly deep pockets that could take Ballmer’s place, like Victor Coleman, who recently bought buildings on two SoDo blocks in the hopes of bringing an NHL team to Seattle.
“As far as replacing him if it came to that, just keep in mind nobody had heard the name Victor Coleman until about a week or so ago, and doing a little research on him it turns out he had dumped $281 million into land,” Daniels said. “There are plenty of people with deep pockets who are interested in this city right now. It is the fastest growing major city in the country, all sorts of new money that has come in here, and from what I’ve been told that there would not be a shortage of people that would be willing to fill Steve Ballmer’s void if that were the case.”
So why would Ballmer so easily switch to pursuing a team entrenched in L.A. instead of staying the course with the Seattle group?
“This is really about Steve Ballmer wanting something to do now that he is away from Microsoft,” Daniels said. “Obviously everybody knows about his passion for basketball, and an opportunity has come up almost out of nowhere in the last couple of months. This is about him. This is not about the city of Seattle.”
It’s also about the NBA, which has had its eye on Ballmer for years as a potential owner.
“I think he has been attractive for a few years now. Back in 08 when the (Sonics) left, even despite all the hostility out of the league office about Seattle, Ballmer was still talked about in high regard,” Daniels said. “You really have not heard a bad word about Steve Ballmer. Obviously his wealth and his background in the tech industry are both appealing to the NBA as it goes forward with franchise valuations and TV and digital rights. He is a person that they’ve been recruiting now for quite a while and it’s been about the right time for Steve and potentially this is it.”