LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The wife of disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling reportedly met billionaire former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer on Sunday about selling the club.
Gossip website TMZ first reported the meeting between Shelly Sterling and Ballmer, who fought in vain to keep the NBA’s SuperSonics in Seattle.
Sports network ESPN confirmed the meeting, which immediately sparked speculation that Ballmer might want to move the club to Seattle, which has been without an NBA club since the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008.
US media reported on Friday that Donald Sterling had surrendered control of the Clippers to his estranged wife, who is in talks with the league to sell the club, whose value has been estimated at about US$600 million (S$752 million).
The NBA says it is on target to conduct a June 3 hearing before league owners at which Donald Sterling could be stripped of the Clippers after racist remarks that sparked a firestorm when they became public last month.
Donald Sterling has already been banned for life from all league activities, but Shelly Sterling hasn’t, so ceding control of the club to her was a bid to free her to play a role in negotiating a sale.
However, the NBA previously has said that while it has no ban on Shelly Sterling, her ownership stake would be terminated if her husband is tossed out as the Clippers owner under terms of the franchise agreement Donald Sterling signed when he bought the club for US$12 million in 1981.
Mr Ballmer, who has expressed an interest in the past in buying an NBA franchise that he could relocate to Seattle, declined to confirm to The Wall Street Journal this month that he would pursue the Clippers if they are sold.
“I have nothing definitive to say,” Ballmer told the newspaper. “Am I right on top of what’s going on there? Absolutely I am. I love basketball, and I’d love to participate at some point in the NBA. If the opportunity is outside of Seattle, so be it.”