Ranking Best Potential Candidates to Purchase Los Angeles Clippers

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 30, 2014

Ranking Best Potential Candidates to Purchase Los Angeles Clippers

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    From the business to the entertainment world, potential bidders are lining up for the chance to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers.

    The problem is that no one knows when (or if) an auction will take place.

    Commissioner Adam Silver dropped the sledgehammer on current Clippers owner Donald Sterling Tuesday for making racist comments in a recorded conversation. Sterling was assed a lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine (the highest possible amount under the league's bylaws).

    In addition, Silver called on NBA owners to force Sterling to sell his team, a vote that would require a 75 percent majority of the other 29 owners. Before Silver's press conference, Sterling told Fox News contributor Jim Gray the Clippers are "not for sale."

    The league could force Sterling's hand, but the disgraced owner could fire back with a legal challenge of the ruling. If a sale eventually takes place, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports it's expected to exceed $1 billion.

    In other words, this potential sale—just like an NBA regular season—could be a marathon, not a sprint.

    That hasn't stopped these eight runners from taking their marks, though. More will likely join the race, but these eight either threw their name in the hat or had it tossed in by an insider source.

    Since any eventual transaction will require approval by the league's board of governors, these candidates will need to show well in several key fields for the evaluation process. Ultimately, though, there are two critical elements these potential purchasers need to have: capital and character.

    Just those two pieces of the puzzle trim this field more than you'd think, leaving just a handful of potential owners vying for the top spot based on net worth, name recognition and notable supporters.

8. Frankie Muniz

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    It's hard to tell anyone with $40 million in the bank to get their money up, but in this billionaire bidding war, this former child star is still sitting at the kids' table.

    Frankie Muniz, known best for his starring role on Fox's Malcolm in the Middle, sent out a mic-dropping tweet Tuesday that stated simply, "I am buying the Los Angeles Clippers." I'm not sure $40 million even covers the parking cost at the auction, but obviously Muniz would need to partner up with other investors for the chance to cast the winning bid. 

    He described himself as a long-time Clippers fan in an engaging Facebook update Tuesday. The 28-year-old settled on the Clippers as his team the way I'd guess anyone who started supporting the team during the 1990s would: He picked them in NBA Live '95 on Super Nintendo because he didn't know any of the players, so he didn't mind deleting them and creating his family for the roster.

    Apparently, that's all it took for the Clippers to stick. He later said in the post he owns a Pooh Richardson jersey, so it's hard to question his fandom.

    Still, it takes more than liking a team to buy one. It takes more than $40 million, too.

7. Rick Ross

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    Really, it says a lot about Frankie Muniz's buying power (or lack thereof) when Rick Ross is on this list and he's not holding the lowest spot on the totem pole.

    "Rozay" actually has fewer funds to work with than the former child star, as he's worth an estimated $35 million. Of course, it might depend what day you check his bank account. A hot streak in craps might move him a spot up or down this list.

    Still, it seems he has a better idea of the type of company he'd encounter in this type of business transaction. He said he wanted in on the Clippers' bidding on his official Twitter account, but said he would be "interested investing" in the team.

    He might need to be a nameless investor. With the league reeling from the Sterling controversy, it's hard to imagine someone with the stage persona of a drug kingpin to be a safe choice for the NBA.

6. Andre "Dr. Dre" Young

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    Andre "Dr. Dre" Young means different things to different age groups.

    The older crowd might remember him as a rapper, either for his work with N.W.A. in the late 1980s or his solo efforts in the 1990s. Some might think of him as a producer and label executive, giving a platform to artists like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.

    In the business world, though, he's the headphone guy. The Beats by Dre headphones he cofounded with record exc Jimmy Iovine have been an instant classic, helping skyrocket his net worth to a cool $550 million, via Forbes.

    The Compton, Calif. native may be ready for his next massive business venture. He told TMZ Sports he was "thinking about" trying to purchase the Clippers. He's had some legal troubles that could prove problematic during the approval process, but his business savvy seems sound.

5. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    I wish I could put boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr. higher on this. Anyone with 45 professional fights under his belt and an unblemished record to his name obviously has the competitiveness any fanbase would like to see in its front office.

    "Money" also has some knockout power in his bank account. His net worth is hard to calcualte, but Forbes reports he collected $85 million for two fights last year and inked a six-fight deal with Showtime worth "roughly $200 million."

    He's apparently interested enough that he's started assembling his ownership team. He told reporters he's had discussions with adviser Al Hayman, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer about going in on a bid.

    "I called Al today about that to see if me, Leonard and Al, and hopefully Richard and a couple of other guys, a couple other of my billionaire guys, we can come together and see what we can come up with," he said, via ESPN's Dan Rafael. "Hopefully, we can do it, and it's not just talk."

    He said a minor membership chunk wouldn't cut it, as he's looking for "a solid percentage." If he gets enough of his "billionaire guys" involved, that shouldn't be an issue.

    What will be a hurdle, and potentially an insurmountable one, is his checkered past. He's pled guilty to multiple domestic violence charges before and, as Rafael noted, released a racist and homophobic video rant against Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao in 2010.

    Mayweather might have the money to buy a seat at the auction table, but his baggage might keep from leaving with the night's prize.

4. Sean "Diddy" Combs

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    Rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs also went the social media route to express his interest in the Clippers. "I will always be a Knicks, but I am a business man," he tweeted with the hashtag #DiddyBuyTheClippers.

    Unlike the first two names on this list, he actually has the money to be a principal investor of a potential owernship group. Forbes estimated his net worth at $700 million in April, and Combs has often accused the publication of selling him short.

    If diversity is key to a strong portfolio, Combs' might impress NBA big shots with his. He has his fingerprints in music, movies, TV, restaurants, fashion, spirits and more, so there's no shortage of supplies to his seemingly endless cash stream.

    He's a master at building and maintaining brands, which could be key for a Clippers franchise that will need a reputation lift if this Sterling debacle drags on. He has some skeletons in his closet, but perhaps not enough to keep him out of the owner's suite.

3. Rick Caruso

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    This is the point of the rankings where economic values go from incredible to unfathomable. In other words, we're finally at the point where you'll see ownership candidates with every box checked on the board of governors' want list.

    Rick Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer, teamed with longtime New York Yankees skipper Joe Torre in an attempt to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. Now that a Southern California professional sports franchise is (almost) back on the market, Caruso is ready to play ball again.

    "If [The Clippers] become available, I would absolutely be interested," Caruso told TMZ Sports. "We have a group still together from when we looked at the Dodgers ... and if it makes sense, I'll take a shot at it."

    He also told Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times, he's interested in "leading, or joining" an ownership group.

    Caruso's group withdrew from the Dodgers' race not due to a lack of capital, but rather because the parking lots surrounding the stadium were not part of the package up for sale. His team has plenty of buying power, but might fall short in name recognition considering the other players in this race.

2. Magic Johnson

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    If the NBA had its pick of potential owners, it might give Hall of Famer Magic Johnson the Clippers' keys free of charge. He's a basketball icon, a brilliant businessman and the type of recognizable face corporate sponsors couldn't throw enough money at.

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Magic's interested, too. A source said Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners, who already own the city's Dodgers and Sparks, are "absolutely interested" in purchasing the Clippers.

    Johnson denied the rumor Monday night, tweeting, "I am not trying to buy the Clippers, they already have an owner." That owner, of course, has since been exiled, but sources told ESPN that discussions about Johnson's group now pursuing the Clippers have been "premature at best."

    Wojnarowski reported the business partners are "angling for a Southern California sports empire," and Johnson has been working about bringing the NFL back to the area for years. He already has a statue out in front of Staples Center, albeit in a Lakers' jersey, and a legacy nearly unrivaled throughout the league's history.

    He's as good a candidate as you're going to findif he really wants to be a candidate.

    There are no such questions with the top name on this list, and his group might include an even more recognizable name than the great Magic Johnson.

1. David Geffen, Oprah Winfrey and Larry Ellison

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    Music mogul David Geffen, worth an estimated $6.2 billion by Forbes, wouldn't be easy to overshadow. Luckily, his name was the first to sprout from his potential ownership group, because the others involved could make the $6.2 million man rather forgettable.

    Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, worth a staggering $50.2 billion, is one of his rumored partners. The other? Media mogul, talk show host, actress and producer Oprah Winfrey, who has some $2.9 billion in her piggy bank.

    The billionaire trio could be the NBA's newest big three, as Geffen told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap the partners will join forces in an attempt to purchase the Clippers. Geffen said he and Ellison, who tried to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010, would operate the team while Winfrey would be an investor.

    "She thinks it would be a great thing for an important black American to own [another] franchise," Geffen said of Winfrey.

    From film and TV to business and software, this collection would bring a little of everything to the table. Throw in their astronomical fortunes plus a Hollywood backdrop, and you could be talking about one of the league's premier franchises in very short while.

    It could take some time for Silver to get the point of putting this organization up for auction. Regardless how long that takes, it will be worth the wait.

    Sterling's stain won't be easy to remove from the Clippers, but the powerful people on this list look like the perfect ones for the job.