Basketball: Steve Ballmer becomes new owner of the LA Clippers

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at the launch event of Windows 8 operating system in New York, in this file photo from October 25, 2012. The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft chief executive Ballmer closed on August 12, 2014 aft
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at the launch event of Windows 8 operating system in New York, in this file photo from October 25, 2012. The sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft chief executive Ballmer closed on August 12, 2014 after a California court confirmed co-owner Shelly Sterling has the right to sell the basketball team, the NBA said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially became the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, the National Basketball Association announced.

It said the transaction, worth an estimated US$2 billion (S$2.5 billion), closed after a California court order went into effect confirming that Shelly Sterling had the authority to sell the team.

In a statement, Ballmer said he was "humbled and honoured to be the new owner of the Los Angels Clippers."

The team went on the block after the NBA slapped a life ban on its owner, Donald Sterling, who bought the club in 1981 for US$12.5 million.

The action was in response to a video aired on celebrity website TMZ that showed Sterling criticising his girlfriend for having her picture taken with black people.

In the storm that followed, the 80-year-old billionaire initially agreed to the sale of the team, but then abruptly withdrew his support.

His wife Shelly, however, moved to sell the team as a trustee of the family trust that owned the team after Sterling had been declared mentally incapacitated.

Ballmer thanked Clippers fans for remaining "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," he said.

"And we will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA."

Ballmer's purchase would make the Clippers, which have never won a title, the second most expensive franchise in the US professional sports.

On July 28, after a three week trial, Judge Michael Levanas gave the green light to the sale, finding no evidence of a secret plot against Sterling.

Sterling appealed the decision to a court in Los Angles, but it was rejected.