Now that the dust is starting to settle, and it is only a matter of time before Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is forced to sell the team, a good question to ask is, who are the most likely candidates that are capable of purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers from Donald Sterling?
The Los Angeles Clippers are worth a little over $700 million, but in all likelihood, they will easily sell for $1 billion in a ferocious bidding war. If the price tag is driven up to over $1 billion, it already reduces the pool of candidates to less than 1% of the world, otherwise, I would start a Kickstarter campaign to purchase them myself. But at $1 billion, there are only handful of people in the world that have the financial capacity to purchase this up and coming franchise. Owning a sports franchise is fiscally safer than owning real estate and the profit margins are much larger. Donald Sterling bought the team for $15 million in 1981 and if 35 years later, it is probably worth over $1 billion.
The other thing to take note of is that an owner of a NBA team should have some basketball acumen to them, in addition to having some business savvy. Owners such as Donald Sterling and James Dolan of the New York Knicks, have already demonstrated that a love of money coupled with an indifference towards basketball is a terrible combination. The Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks have been held hostage and handcuffed by greedy owners for the majority of the time that these owners had control over the franchise. If the Clippers are going to have any success, they must hire the right owner. Whoever takes over the Clippers next, must have an understanding of the game if the franchise is going to reach its full potential in a sustained way.
Pending a ¾ vote by the rest of the owners, Donald Sterling is on his way out, and the Los Angeles Clippers will finally be liberated by a cheap and greedy owner who never wanted to put money into his own team. With the right owner in place, this up and coming franchise has the right pieces to be a championship team for a sustained amount of time. Suddenly, the Clippers are the hottest commodity in the NBA. Everyone wants a piece of this team and a piece of this city. With Sterling gone, there is a new day dawning for this franchise.
So, who are some of the elite names that are on this exclusive list of billionaires capable of purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers?
10. Billy Crystal
With the exception of Clipper Darryl, Billy Crystal is probably the most famous Los Angeles Clippers fan. Crystal has been a fan of the Clippers through the good and the bad. He is by all accounts a legitimate Clippers fan. It is not unusual to see Crystal courtside most Clippers home games. Additionally, Crystal does own a small percentage of the Arizona Diamondbacks, so he clearly has an interest in owning sports franchises, but it is hard to say if his royalties from “When Harry Met Sally” will pay the bill for owning a NBA team. But if he is able to network with some other billionaires that truly love the team, there aren’t many other rich and famous people that genuinely love this team more than Billy.
9. Patrick Soon-Shiong
Shiong was a surgeon and in the pharmaceuticals business in his former life. Today, the 62-year-old is an entrepreneur and the richest man in Los Angeles. His net worth is believed to be somewhere in the $8 billion range. Soon-Shiong could purchase the Los Angeles Clippers outright by himself, but if he does, he will be forced to give up his 4% share of the Los Angeles Lakers that he purchased from Magic Johnson. But owning 100% is certainly a larger percentage than just 4%.
8. Henry Samueli
Samueli bought the Anaheim Ducks in 2005, so he would love nothing more than to make the Los Angeles Clippers, the Anaheim Clippers. Samueli’s net worth is around $2 billion, so he certainly has the financial means to purchase the Clippers. Combine that with his knowledge of owning a sports franchise already, and Samueli is as good of a candidate as any to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers.
7. Rick Caruso
Caruso’s name has also been brought up as a potential candidate to purchase the Clippers. Caruso is the founder and chief executive officer of Caruso Affiliated, which is one of the largest privately held real estate companies in the US. A few years ago, Caruso attempted to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers before he was outbid by Magic Johnson and a group of investors, so his interest may now be in the Los Angeles Clippers.
6. David Geffen
Geffen is the cofounder of Dreamworks and a movie/music mogul. The 71-year-old lives in Malibu, California and is worth around $6 billion and has been linked to partnering up with a few other prominent people to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers. He made it clear to Forbes magazine that he would be very interested in purchasing the Clippers this past Tuesday. Geffen tried to purchase the Clippers in 2010 for $700 million, but it was turned down back then, so you can bet the Clippers are worth a whole lot more today.
5. Larry Ellison
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is the 5th richest man in the world at $49.3 billion. He has previously expressed a desire to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010, but they were not for sale and everyone knows that Donald Sterling has always been stubborn about selling any of his properties. Ellison has also tried to purchase the Golden State Warriors, so it is clear that he wants to purchase a NBA team in some city. And if Geffen does purchase the Clippers, once the Clippers finished their 10-year lease at the Staples Center, it is very possible that he will move them up to the Silicon Valley.
4. Oscar De La Hoya
The great boxer openly expressed his desire to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers this past week and as a Mexican-American he would add to the growing need for diversity amongst NBA owners; something that Adam Silver clearly wants. De La Hoya also said that he could bring a different perspective to owning the Clippers if he was in charge. The born and raised Los Angelino’s forte is obviously in the boxing realm, but he has always been a NBA fan and has a huge presence in Southern California.
3. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Another boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr., expressed his desire to purchase the Clippers on Tuesday while promoting one of his fights in Vegas this upcoming Saturday. Mayweather specifically mentioned three of his billionaire friends that he thinks would be interested in purchasing the Clippers as partners along with him. Mayweather has made over $350 million during his boxing career, so he cannot buy the Clippers outright, but he certainly has the network and connections to make this happen. However, Mayweather is a polarizing figure and has been accused of making his own racist remarks to Manny Pacquiao, so even though Mayweather has a lot of cache, his own baggage may prevent him from joining this elite society of owners.
2. Magic Johnson
The city of Los Angeles is synonymous with the name Magic Johnson, so it would only be fitting for the face of the city to buy a basketball team in Los Angeles. Magic is also the owner of a baseball team, where he paid $2.15 billion with the Guggenheim partners for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Magic has the basketball land IQ and the business savvy to be the perfect owner of a NBA team, especially one in Los Angeles. And with the Buss family holding on to the rights of the Los Angeles Lakers for eternity, this may be Magic’s only opportunity to own a franchise in the city that he loves. But more than any of these things, the fact that Magic’s name was mentioned in the Donald Sterling conversation makes Sterling selling the Clippers to Magic even sweeter. It would be the icing on the cake to an upsetting and dramatic narrative.
1. Oprah Winfrey
The media mogul Oprah Winfrey is rumored to be one of the leading candidates to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers. Oprah is one of the most powerful women in the world and she is also one of the wealthiest as well. As a Chicago native, Oprah is a Chicago Bulls fan, but the possibility of purchasing the Clippers is too much of an opportunity for Oprah to ignore. As an African American and a woman, Oprah would be a wonderful candidate to purchase the Clippers. She may have no experience owning a sports franchise, but a large part of Oprah’s success comes from the fact that she has always been able to surround herself with the right people. And make no mistake, if Oprah is in charge, she will treat the players and the fans like royalty.