SEATTLE - Local Politicians, Port Leaders, and Sports Fans are among those watching the ongoing negotiations surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers and specifically, the actions of arguably Seattle's #1 basketball fan.
On Sunday, TMZ reported former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer met with Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling at her Malibu mansion, to discuss the sale of the franchise. Sterling's lawyer was also present for the meeting, according to the report. Donald Sterling recently surrendered control of the team to his wife, and the NBA has been pushing for a sale since Sterling's racially charged, recorded comments were released.
The news of the meeting sent tongues wagging, again, in Seattle. Ballmer was part of the unsuccessful effort to buy the Sacramento Kings franchise, and is part of the group which is financing a new arena complex.
He told the Wall Street Journal on May 15th, that "If I get interested in the Clippers, it would be for Los Angeles. I don’t work anymore, so I have more geographic flexibility than I did a year, year-and-a half ago. Moving them anywhere else would be value destructive."
Ballmer is still considered a long shot for the Clippers franchise, which is expected to receive multiple bidders in a true open market. He is a minority investor in the land acquisition, for the proposed Seattle Arena, south of Safeco Field, and was believed to have agreed to a minority share of the Kings purchase. The majority of the financial burden was assumed by Chris Hansen.
Hansen has remained silent on Ballmer's recent business transactions.
NBA owners are expected to rule June 3rd on the future of the Clippers, and according to one sports law expert, that may be prompting Shelly Sterling to aggressively market the franchise this week.
"This is the last week for the Sterlings to legally own the Clippers," says Michael McCann, who is the Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire. "Maybe this is the last attempt to see if they can avoid litigation."
McCann says the NBA, and Commissioner Adam Silver, will likely have a strong say over who controls the team. "Shelly is a non controlling owner. She doesn't have the legal capacity to sell the team," he says, adding that there is a possibility the Sterlings are going through all the motions to "strengthen their legal case" against the NBA.
McCann adds that there is still an incentive for the Sterlings to fight, and avoid the costly tax bill that would come with a sale. "If the Sterlings sell the team now, they are going to have to pay capital gains taxes."
The Seattle Arena project is currently undergoing an environmental review, and is scheduled to be completed now by the end of summer.
The NHL's Commissioner Gary Bettman, and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, recently met in Seattle with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and King County Executive Dow Constantine, and asked for the deal to be amended for the NHL, according to Murray. The Mayor said he told the league leaders it was something the City Council was not interested in doing at this time.