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He’s still blamed, in some circles, or credited, in others, for hastening the skyrocketing values of pro teams in all sports. All he did, he tells Forbes, was look at the perennially successful Dodgers’ $2 billion sale in 2012 and figure that would also be a fair price for the city’s No. 2 basketball team that’s never won anything. “I don’t know how much I overpaid,” he says. He does have a point. Forbes now values the Clippers at $3.9 billion. “That’s good appreciation.”
It’s all about appreciation, isn’t it? Sure, Ballmer has to pay a smidgen of luxury tax (around $140 million, according to Spotrac’s estimate), the punishment the league metes out when an organization ignores salary cap restrictions. “But you know, that’s fine,” he says. “You take some losses, and we’ve taken some losses just given our player payroll. But if you take a look, we’re still in it, and I don’t have the cash flow constraint.”
About the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, which expires next year, Ballmer jokes that team owners are “under threat of death” from Commissioner Adam Silver for talking publicly about the matter. Asked about the downward trend for cable TV — Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Bally Sports Networks, which broadcasts games of many NBA teams including the Clippers, filed for bankruptcy this week — Ballmer says that coverage is bound to go digital.

League shooting for $75 billion in new media deal

“Not because a lot of people don’t buy cable anymore,” Ballmer tells Forbes. “That’s one reason. But we can do a different and better set of experiences.” ClipperVision, the team’s direct-to-consumer product, for instance, allows fans to stream games anywhere without a cable subscription. Still, according to NBA sources, the Clippers haven’t taken a financial loss on ClipperVision only because the club pays for production costs. Industry sources have put a target price tag of $75 billion on the NBA’s next multiyear media deal, slated to begin after the 2024 season. Doable? Ballmer will only say that a year from now, after a new agreement is reached, “we’re going to be in much better shape financially.”