sport

Ballmer agrees Clippers deal

Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has agreed a deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers in the wake of Donald Sterling's lifetime ban.

Sterling's wife Shelly has issued a statement saying a deal worth 2billion US dollars (1.19billion) has been agreed with Ballmer, although the sale could yet face complications relating to Donald Sterling's fall into disgrace.

"I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner," Shelly Sterling said in a statement. "We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success."

Shelly Sterling said she was authorising the sale under her authority as the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust which owns the Clippers.

However, according to reports in the United States, Donald Sterling's lawyers have insisted he has the final say over any deal. Other reports suggest Shelly Sterling has argued her husband, aged 80, is not mentally fit to make the decision.

Any deal must be verified by the NBA's board of governors, who were scheduled to meet on Tuesday to determine if the Sterlings should be stripped of their ownership over Donald Sterling's remarks.

Donald Sterling caused outrage when TMZ in April released a tape of him making derogatory remarks about African-Americans. NBA commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban and a 2.5million US dollar (1.49million) fine.

That sparked a bidding war for the Clippers, who for years laboured under the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours the Lakers, but who have moved into contention in recent seasons.

Ballmer outbid a number of consortiums with celebrity links in Los Angeles, with Oprah Winfrey and David Geffen among the bidders.

In a statement, Ballmer said: "I will be honoured to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. I love basketball and I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win - and win big - in Los Angeles.

"LA is one of the world's great cities - a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness. I am confident that the Clippers will in the coming years become an even bigger part of the community.

"I thank Shelly Sterling for her willingness to entrust the Clippers franchise to me, and I am grateful to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his colleagues for working collaboratively with me throughout this process."

If the sale is completed, the price would smash the previous high for an NBA franchise - the 550million US dollars (328million) sale of the Milwaukee Bucks in April - and rank second on the list for any US sports team behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, sold in 2012 for 2.1billion US dollars (1.25billion).