The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was completed Tuesday with an email from a California courtroom, one of Ballmer's attorneys told USA TODAY Sports.
The NBA Board of Governors had previously approved the $2 billion deal, which was officially closed after a California court issued a final order confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling to sell the team on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, the NBA confirmed on its website. Shelly Sterling was the sole trustee after her husband, Donald Sterling, was found mentally incapacitated by two doctors and subsequently removed as a co-trustee.
Ballmer's attorneys moved quickly to finalize the deal Tuesday as soon as Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas issued a written ruling. Levanas had issued an oral opinion in favor of Shelly Sterling on July 28, but to make the sale official, Ballmer needed a final order.
"I went to Judge Levanas's courtroom this morning hoping that he would have signed the order, which he had," Ballmer attorney Adam Streisand told USA TODAY Sports. "The clerk handed the order to me. I emailed from the courtroom to close the deal. The NBA owners voted last week."
The price paid for the Clippers by Ballmer is the most ever for an NBA franchise.
"I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers," Ballmer said in a statement. "Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times. I will be hard core in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA."
In a statement, Shelly Sterling said, "I am thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner."
"I am confident that Steve will bring the city a championship team in the very near future. I cannot wait for the new season to begin," she added.
Donald Sterling, who purchased the team in 1981 for $12 million, was banned for life from the NBA in April by Commissioner Adam Silver after an audio recording surfaced of Sterling making racist remarks. Silver had said the league would move to strip the Sterlings' ownership if the sale was not final by Sept. 15.
The sale comes after a flurry of litigation filed by Donald Sterling in an effort to derail the deal. He fought his removal as co-trustee and filed two other lawsuits — one contending his wife and Ballmer violated corporate law and the other seeking more than $1 billion in damages from the NBA.
But it was the fight over the Sterling Family Trust that mattered most to closing the deal, and Shelly Sterling scored a clean sweep over her husband with Levanas concluding she had followed the rules of the trust and met her fiduciary responsibility to her husband.
"Rochelle's testimony was far and away more credible than Donald," Levanas said in issuing his oral opinion in July. "Donald's answers were often evasive and, in one instance, were inconsistent with his previous testimony."
While the sale may not end all the litigation, it should end any potential controversy involving Clippers players, who had talked about a possible boycott if Donald Sterling was still the owner when the 2014-15 season starts in October. Coach Doc Rivers, who also had discussed the possibility of resigning if a change in ownership did not occur, called Tuesday's sale "an amazing new day in Clippers history."
"I couldn't be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization," said Rivers, who is also president of basketball operations. "I am already inspired by Steve's passion for the game, his love of competition and desire to win the right way and I know our players and fans are going to be inspired as well."
The Clippers website featured statements from players welcoming the change in ownership.
"I am very excited about Mr. Ballmer's purchase of the Clippers," guard Chris Paul said. "I've had a chance to meet him and his excitement for the game of basketball and our team is going to be great for the league, the city of Los Angeles and Clipper fans everywhere."
"Today is a great day for the Clipper organization and fans everywhere," forward Blake Griffin said. "I look forward to having Mr. Ballmer as an owner and continuing our pursuit of a championship."