Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer won the bidding for the Los Angeles Clippers with a $2 billion offer, according to multiple reports.
The Sterling family trust signed an agreement Thursday to sell the team to the 58-year-old Ballmer that will go directly to the NBA for approval and not require Donald Sterling's OK, ESPN reported Thursday.
The sale price would be the second highest for a U.S. sports team, topped only by the $2.1 billion the Los Angeles Dodgers fetched two years ago. The previous high for an NBA franchise was $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks in a deal that was finalized this month.
Contrary to the ESPN report, the Los Angeles Times indicated the sale still must be approved by Sterling, who recently was banned for life by the NBA and fined $2.5 million for making racist comments in private that were taped and then made public. Sterling subsequently authorized his wife, Shelly, to sell the team.
Donald Sterling's attorney, Bobby Samini, told the Times, "There's been no sale. There can be no sale without Donald's signature."
Meanwhile news of the Sterlings' expected departure spread.
"Steve Ballmer owning the Clippers is a big win for the City of LA and all the people who live in the City of Angels!" former Lakers player Magic Johnson tweeted Thursday night.
Multiple media outlets reported that Shelly Sterling received offers of $1.6 billion from a group led by music industry honcho David Geffen and $1.2 billion from a group headed by investors Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh. Geffen told ESPN on Thursday night that his group withdrew its bid.
Donald Sterling bought the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million.
A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in New York where the other 29 NBA team owners are due to vote on whether to force a sale of the team after hearing from Sterling. A forced sale would require three-quarters approval from the owners.
According to SI.com, if the NBA is satisfied with the potential new owner and the price, it would postpone the hearing to vet the sale agreement and pending owners. If the sale is subsequently approved, the Sterlings would be out as NBA owners without the league having to force them out.
Ballmer was once part of an unsuccessful bid to acquire the Sacramento Kings and move the team to Seattle. He retired as Microsoft's CEO four months ago and has a reported net worth of $20 billion.
Other groups interested in the Clippers include Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey as well as Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene Jobs; Steve Wynn's ex-wife, Elaine Wynn; and Beats By Dre co-founder Jimmy Iovine, ESPN reported.
Despite Thursday's sale news, Donald Sterling has vowed not to go down without a fight.
Sterling said Tuesday that there was no grounds for taking the team from him and that his racially insensitive statements came during a lover's quarrel.