SBD/May 1, 2014/Franchises

Triumvirate Of Geffen, Ellison, Winfrey Confirm Interest In Purchasing Sterling's Clippers

Oracle's Ellison would control the club along with David Geffen.
DreamWorks SKG co-Founder David Geffen's office yesterday confirmed that he, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey "will form a group to buy the Clippers should the NBA strip Donald Sterling of the team’s ownership," according to Scott Reid of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. The group "will likely be joined by several other high-profile, well-financed parties" in bidding for the team. However, few groups, if any, "would have the financial resources equal to those for the Geffen trio," who have a combined estimated personal wealth of $56.5B. Meanwhile, Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson "is also interested in leading a group" backed by Guggenheim Partners. Johnson: "It has to be the right situation. Is the Clippers the right situation? Of course. It’s one of the premier franchises." Lakers investor Patrick Soon-Shiong is seen as "another potential suitor" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/1). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Karp & Woo note Ellison and Geffen "are close friends" who "have both had their eyes on NBA teams" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/1). Geffen said that he and Ellison "would run the team, while Winfrey would be an investor." Geffen spoke to ESPN's Jeremy Schaap and said, "Oprah is not interested in running the team. ... Larry would sooner die than fail. I would sooner die than fail. Larry's a sportsman. We've talked about this for a long time. Between the three of us, we have a good shot." Geffen "reportedly tried to buy at least a controlling stake in the Clippers" in '10 for $600M, but was "rebuffed by Sterling." Geffen: "I'm a fan. I bring something to the table, it's fun and I can afford it. I live in L.A., that's one thing that makes it attractive" (ESPN.com, 4/30). ESPN's Keith Olbermann said of the trio, "This group might have a legit shot" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 4/30). In San Jose, Steve Johnson notes others "interested" in a stake in the Clippers are actor Matt Damon and rapper P. Diddy (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/1). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Peter Newcomb reports music mogul Irving Azoff is "putting together a group to bid" on the Clippers (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/1).

OTHER INTEREST: L.A. real estate developer Rick Caruso said that at least partial control of the Clippers "by an ethnic minority owner would make sense." Caruso: "The ownership of the team should reflect the diversity of the city and the fan base." In L.A., Rainey & Fenno cite sources as saying that they viewed Guggenheim as a "serious competitor should it decide to pursue the Clippers." The group paid $2.15B for the Dodgers (L.A. TIMES, 5/1). Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of the team, "It's in a great location ... We have some pretty good players. I just think it's a very valuable franchise in that way and that's why a lot of people want in on it. You knew that if this franchise ever did go for sale that there would be a lot of people in line because it's a good market with a good team and people see lot of promise." Rivers said that he "hasn't considered the possibility of investing in the team if one of the prospective ownership groups approached him" (ESPNLA.com, 4/30).

ALL THE RAGE: In N.Y., Witz & Pilon in a front-page piece write the Clippers are in a "strikingly unfamiliar position: the toast of the town." The prospect of an auction "created a frenzy, with hands flying up, playfully and not, for a chance to bid on the most coveted commodity in professional sports, a competitive team in a major market." Most agree that the Clippers "have room for enormous growth on the business side" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/1). ABC's Ryan Smith called the Clippers the "hottest property in pro sports" ("Nightline," ABC, 4/30). In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes a "once-beleaguered franchise that for so long fought for relevance in its own city [is] now finding itself the apple of everyone's eye" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/1). A header in the N.Y. POST reads: "For Once, The 'Other' LA Team Is In The Spotlight" (N.Y. POST, 5/1).

FAMILY MATTERS: In L.A., Mike Bresnahan notes Sterling and his wife, Rochelle Sterling, "own the Clippers in a trust," and their two adult children, Chris and Joanna, "might also be included in it as well" (L.A. TIMES, 5/1). In N.Y., Kevin Armstrong cites an NBA source as saying that the league has "considered asking Donald Sterling to transfer control of the team to his wife" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/1). ESPN's Bomani Jones said of Rochelle Sterling, "Once people get a broader idea of how involved she was in Sterling's activities I see no way possible that she could own the Clippers" ("Nightline," ABC, 4/30). In N.Y., Dillon & McShane note Rochelle Sterling's chances of "assuming control of the franchise took a hit with the exposure of five-year-old depositions alleging her own bigotry against blacks and Hispanics" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/1). USA TODAY's Sam Amick writes the immense interest in the Clippers "makes it all the more absurd" that Rochelle Sterling "would receive consideration" (USA TODAY, 5/1). Rivers was asked if Rochelle Sterling's continued presence at games could be a distraction and responded, "Yeah, it could be. Obviously, if it was overbearing, it would be, let's be honest. ... I wish I knew the right way on that one. I don't. ... I think either way would create a reaction" (LATIMES.com, 4/30). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi noted Rivers "is in charge of basketball operations while Clippers president Andy Roeser is in charge of business, but Sterling had the final say" in matters before he was banned. Rivers and Roeser "are moving forward without that final say until the league or someone else tells them otherwise." Rivers: "There are things day to day that I do that I need some guidance on, and right now we're just doing them and making our decisions" (ESPNLA.com, 4/30).
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