The Steve Ballmer Clippers Purchase Offer: Image Bail-Out or Investment Wizardry?

It’s all over sports media right now: Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO, has made a $2 billion offer to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers. The Inquisitr previously reported on the rumors that the sale to Ballmer was fully finalized and on the agreement Ballmer made not to move the team.

Now that more details have emerged, we know that the sale has been tentatively approved by Shelly Sterling, who is now managing her husband and his money. The offer is somewhere around 15 times the team’s annual revenue, making this sale (potentially) the largest in NBA history, and (again, potentially) making Donald Sterling’s racist diatribe to his mistress actually more profitable his racist real estate grift.

Why would Steve Ballmer offer such an outrageous amount of money for a mediocre team? Should we assume that it’s because ol’ Steve is just itching to have himself a time? Is that it?

Does Mr. Ballmer plan on enjoying his retirement by tinkering with an ailing sports team the same way that men in other income brackets attempt to resuscitate the rusted-out hot rods and baroque luxury sedans of their fathers’ eras?

Perhaps instead Steve Ballmer is offering his outrageous, over-valued, shut-up-and-close deal to the Sterling family not out of a sense of ownership but spite. It was only last year that Ballmer’s reasonable, businesslike offer of $525 million for the Sacramento Kings was slapped down in favor of another wild-eyed, adrenaline driven gamble from a more determined collective of franchise collectors businessmen.

Maybe poor Steve really wants, deep down, to make a reasonable bid. In his heart of hearts, the quiet little voice of the accountant in Steve Ballmer’s head is yelling at him to be more realistic, and he’s having to just stomp down on it like he’s walking all the air out of a collapsed tent.

If that’s so, then Ballmer’s right to be doing that stomping. As Forbes first pointed out, there are a lot of reasons why he would sink money into a mid-level team right now. There’s a lot of sense in a tech guy like Steve Ballmer thinking that he might monetize this kind of entertainment in new ways. After all, the technology sector has basically made trusting the future to provide new ways to monetize into a business plan.

On the other hand, it was Ballmer’s era of Microsoft that gave us both Windows Vista and Windows 8, so it might not be a bad idea for someone familiar with the man to wander by his mansion with a handkerchief, to wipe the stars from his eyes. In fact, given the backtracking that was done around the Xbox One’s content management, it might just be a good idea for Ballmer’s loved ones to have some kind of rotational support system designed to check Steve’s expectations against the effects his decisions have on his customer base.

After all, $2 billion is a lot of money to throw around, especially for someone with Ballmer’s legacy. Given Ballmer’s high-powered leadership and willingness to bravely forge ahead in order to capture entire fractions of percentages of an unstable, fad-driven market (tablets), his tenacity is not to be doubted. It does, however, compel us to ask questions about Steve Ballmer’s judgment.

Ballmer is, after all, someone who survived thirty-four years of the kind of no-weekend, no vacation, 20-hour a day ride that was the personal computer market in the waning hours of the twentieth century. It’s no wonder he saw the kind of maddening public relations hole that Sterling had dropped the team into as an opportunity. If that’s what this is, if Steve Ballmer is buying the Clipper’s as a fix-me-up, then bless his heart. If he intends to hype up this controversy in order to drive income streams derived from the secondary entertainment market by licensing out reality television deals and racist diatribe catchphrase t-shirts, then we should all shudder because one of the architects of our collective ad-driven, gossip-mongering addiction to social media just bought a controversy that’s sure to generate content for the very beast Ballmer’s career helped give birth to.

[Image via Mashable]