The Sterling family trust has signed an agreement to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, sources tell ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.
The agreement is going straight to the NBA for final approval and does not require additional approval from banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling, according to sources.
ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported earlier Thursday that Ballmer's $2 billion bid was the highest submitted, topping bids from groups led by music mogul David Geffen ($1.6 billion) and L.A. investors Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh ($1.2 billion).
Geffen confirmed to ESPN on Thursday night that his group had formally withdrawn from the bidding.
Sterling's wife, Shelly, had pushed to negotiate a sale before Tuesday's board of governors meeting at which both of the Sterlings' ownership interests could be terminated, while Donald Sterling had vowed to fight the NBA's attempts to force a sale.
News of Ballmer's bid was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The $2 billion price tag would be the second-most ever for a North American professional sports franchise. The Los Angeles Dodgers were sold in 2012 for $2.15 billion (which included $500 million tied to real estate value). It would be the most paid by far for an NBA team, after the $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks this year.
Ballmer, 58, was CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to '14, and reportedly is worth $20 billion. He was the only investor that did not immediately seek out other partners when preparing a bid.
On Wednesday, Seattle Seahawks (and former USC Trojans) coach Pete Carroll took to Twitter to back Ballmer.
The Clippers would be so fortunate to get Steve Ballmer as owner. He's a great competitive force & would bring big energy to the LAC fanbase
- Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) May 28, 2014 It's not the first time Ballmer has bid on an NBA team. He was part of a group that attempted to buy the Sacramento Kings last year, with the intent of moving the team to Seattle. NBA owners voted to reject the proposed move.
Ballmer told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month that, should he obtain the Clippers, he would not attempt to move the franchise from Los Angeles, saying that would be "value destructive."
Shelly Sterling told bidders to submit letters of interest by Wednesday, with firm offers due by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Geffen's group also included Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey, as well as Guggenheim executives Todd Boehly and Mark Walter, Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Jobs, Steve Wynn's ex-wife Elaine Wynn, and Beats by Dre co-founder Jimmy Iovine.
Former NBA All-Star Grant Hill is part of Ressler and Karsh's group.
Steve Ballmer bids $2B for Clippers