LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers moved on from months of ugliness Tuesday, with Steve Ballmer officially becoming the team's new owner in a record $2 billion sale that ousted Donald Sterling as the NBA's longest-tenured owner.

Sterling bought the team in 1981 for $12 million and presided over decades of losing seasons before engaging in a fierce legal battle with his estranged wife to hold on to his most prized asset.

The team said the sale closed after a Los Angeles court confirmed the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the franchise to the former Microsoft CEO.

"I hate losing the team," she said at a news conference.

She later added, "It feels good. It would have felt good to own the team, too."

The NBA Board of Governors had previously approved the sale.

"Really excited -- in a pretty hardcore way -- to continue the path to making the Clippers a better and better basketball team, and a better and better citizen of the Los Angeles community," Ballmer told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The bizarre drama began in April when a recording surfaced of Donald Sterling scolding his girlfriend for bringing black men to Clippers games. The audio spurred the NBA to ban Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million.


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Sterling was apologetic after the audio recording went viral, but his mea culpa backfired when he criticized Lakers great Magic Johnson, who had been photographed with Sterling's girlfriend, as a bad role model for kids because he had HIV. The 80-year-old real estate mogul was roundly condemned from locker rooms to the Oval Office, where President Barack Obama called Sterling's remarks "incredibly offensive racist statements."

With the NBA threatening to seize the team and auction it, Sterling initially gave his wife of 58 years permission to negotiate a sale but then refused to sign the Ballmer deal. He said he would sue the league instead and then revoked the trust, which his lawyers said effectively killed the deal.

Shelly Sterling removed Donald as a trustee after doctors found he had symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Adam Streisand, Ballmer's attorney, said Tuesday that Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas signed the order authorizing the sale even if Donald Sterling's attorneys filed an appeal.

Hours after the announcement, Donald Sterling petitioned an appeals court to overturn the move. "An immediate stay from this court, and an order halting or unwinding the sale, is necessary," the filing said, "to allow meaningful review of the novel and erroneous legal determinations made here, and to restore public faith in our justice system."

Pierce O'Donnell, Shelly Sterling's attorney, said at the news conference that Donald Sterling had filed a petition opposing the sale.

"They're alleging the judge made errors," Shelly Sterling's attorney Pierce O'Donnell said. "We're confident the court of appeals will not take the case."

  • Ballmer plans to be in Los Angeles for a Monday rally at Staples Center with fans, players and coaches, including head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers helped guide the franchise through the tumultuous end of the Sterling era, serving as team spokesman and meeting with team employees to provide support.

    The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.