Clippers lawsuit delays Ballmer’s bid to join team-owning tech elite

Steven Ballmer, the flamboyant former Microsoft(s msft) CEO, may lose his dream to acquire the LA Clippers and join an elite handful of tech executives who own a professional team.

Despite Ballmer’s eye-popping bid of $2 billion and the blessing of the NBA, the sale hit a snag on Monday when current Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, announced he would sue to stop the sale.

The sale until last weekend appeared to be a done deal after Sterling’s estranged wife wrested legal control of the team from her husband by having doctors declare that he had a “cognitive impairment.”

But now, the Clippers sale is set to devolve into an ugly legal mess, with Sterling suing the NBA under anti-trust laws for forcing him to sell the team after Sterling made a series of racist remarks. As ESPN reports:

Sterling’s attorney Max Blecher earlier told in an email, “The deal is off.” Blecher also suggested Donald Sterling would be challenging wife Shelly Sterling’s actions and negotiation of the sale in probate court Tuesday.

For Ballmer, a superfan in his hometown of Seattle, the lawsuit throws a wrench into his plans to acquire a team. That means the Clippers for now won’t be one of the professional sports teams owned in whole or in part by a tech mogul. That elite list includes:

  • Portland Trailblazers (owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen)
  • Seattle Seahawks (also owned by Allen)
  • Dallas Mavericks (owned by former techie-turned-venture capitalist and media mogul Mark Cuban)
  • San Jose Sharks (owned by SAP-founder Hasso Platner)

If it’s any consolation to Ballmer, his day might come soon since. While NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted to ESPN that Sterling has “unsold” the team repeatedly in the past, the league and Sterling’s wife expressed confidence that they will eventually cut through the legal obstacles.

In the meantime, here’s a video that gives a flavor of the sort of celebrations fans might get to see if Ballmer does own a team: