May 5, 2014
By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
The process surrounding the Donald Sterling lifetime ban might turn out to be the most important sports business story in history. There isn’t just the business impact on sponsors and NBA team values; there’s also the legal issues surrounding the authority of the Commissioner and the First Amendment. As of now, the league has taken the initial steps of terminating Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers and selling the team. Although a legal battle from Sterling is likely, several prospective ownership groups have already come forward. Everyone from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison to Oprah Winfrey has expressed interest in owning the team.
Though worth $575 million according to the latest Forbes valuations, the team could sell for as much as $1 billion on the open market. In fact, the NBA’s growing global value played a crucial role in the Milwaukee Bucks selling for a league-record $550 million. Expect to see a strong offer from Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Partners, who could buy the team and then sell TV rights to SportsNet L.A., their Dodgers-owner regional sports network. The Clippers’ existing TV deal expires in 2016.