Ballmer was one of at least six bidders to express serious interest in owning the Clippers, who were bought in 1981 by Sterling for $12.5 million. The three highest bids were $1.2 billion from a group including former NBA player Grant Hill and Los Angeles businessmen Bruce Karsh and Tony Ressler; $1.6 billion from a group fronted by music mogul David Geffen; and $2 billion from Ballmer.
Shelly Sterling signed an agreement to sell the team to Ballmer on May 29, then was forced to secure a court order to confirm her authority as sole trustee to go ahead with the sale.
"I am thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner," said Shelly Sterling, who as part of the deal was given the title of "Clippers Number One Fan" and "owner emeritus." "I am happy for the team, the fans, the sponsors and the city of Los Angeles."
Drafts of the Clippers' sale bid book, given to bidders by Bank of America and obtained by ESPN.com, revealed that the $2 billion price would be 12.1 times the expected 2014 revenues of the team. The bid book noted that the highest previous sale was the record that Ballmer beat, that of the Milwaukee Bucks, who sold for $550 million this year and a then-record five times total revenue.
Ballmer defended the amount of his bid in the interview with Shelburne.
"Lots of people run lots of numbers," he said. "I feel like I paid a price I'm excited about. It obviously was a price that was negotiated, and I feel very good about it. It's not a cheap price, but when you're used to looking at tech companies with huge risk, no earnings and huge multiples, this doesn't look like the craziest thing I've ever acquired. It's my own personal money, and you're just as careful with your own money as you are with your shareholders' money.
"There's real earnings in this business. There's real upside opportunity. So compared to the things I looked at in tech, this was a reasonable purchase and it's one I'm really excited about. Plus, I'm really excited about the product. I love it. I've been to over a hundred basketball games in the last year, and that's just high school games."
Ballmer previously had been involved in a failed bid to buy the Sacramento Kings and relocate them to Seattle. On Tuesday, he put to rest any thoughts of relocating the Clippers, saying: "There's a hundred reasons [not to move them]. ... I'm all-in on the Los Angeles Clippers."
"The Clippers are more valuable in Los Angeles," Ballmer told ESPN. "It's a phenomenal city, a phenomenal market, phenomenal everything. I like Los Angeles and there's an opportunity to spend some time there in addition to Seattle. That is phenomenal.
"The NBA has made it clear they want fan bases to be able to keep their teams. I know that firsthand, because we did take a whirl at moving Sacramento and that didn't work. I'm all in on the Los Angeles Clippers. We're moving forward. We've got to work to be the best we can be to take advantage of all the assets in the community."
The official sale of the team to Ballmer caps a tumultuous few months for the organization, starting when Donald Sterling's racist comments to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, were publicized by TMZ in April.