Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has purchased the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers franchise for $2 billion, a record for a professional basketball team, sole trustee Shelly Sterling said today.
In a news release Sterling said she had signed a binding contract to sell the team to Ballmer on behalf of the The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the club.
"I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner. We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success," the statement added.
The agreement will need to be approved by the National Basketball Association's Board of Governors before it is finalised.
Ballmer outbid two groups, one led by media mogul David Geffen that offered $1.6 billion and included Oprah Winfrey and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, a source close to the process told Reuters.
A group of Los Angeles investors also bid $1.2 billion for the team.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch acted as the financial advisor in the deal, Sterling's statement said.
The Clippers came up for sale after the NBA banned owner Donald Sterling for life because of racist remarks he made in a recorded conversation that was leaked last month to entertainment news website TMZ.com.
Ballmer's winning bid was raised from an initial $1.8 billion offer made earlier yesterday, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
If approved, the deal would be second only to the $2.15 billion paid in 2012 for baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sterling, a Los Angeles-area property developer, paid $12.5m in 1981 for the Clippers, which were then located in San Diego.
Ballmer, 58, who retired as Microsoft CEO in February, remains on the board and still owns about 4% of the Redmond, Washington-based software giant, worth $13.4 billion.
Last year, he joined a group that unsuccessfully bid on the Sacramento Kings basketball team. A long-time basketball fan, until a few years ago he played a regular pickup game with other Microsoft colleagues at a public gym near the Microsoft campus.
It is unclear how the team's potential sale will affect a June 3 hearing the NBA scheduled at which Donald Sterling can address the accusations against him. At that meeting, the owners could force him to sell the team on a vote by 23 of the remaining 29 owners, the NBA has said.