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Steve Ballmer Resigns as Microsoft Board Member

Aug 18, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer at press conference at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Ballmer has quite a bit of wealth. The former Microsoft CEO and new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is worth $22 billion, much of which is in the form of Microsoft stock. While many thought he overpaid for the Clippers, I doubt Ballmer is losing much sleep over the $2 billion he ended up paying to take the team from Donald Sterling.

Following the exit of Sterling, Ballmer is in the spotlight as the fresh face of a franchise with championship hopes. I’m sure he is more than prepared for the expectations and pressure as this is the man who took over one of the world’s largest technology companies from some guy named Bill Gates.

Now that the sale of the team is official, Ballmer has stepped down from his role on the Board of Directors at Microsoft. Although he has not served as CEO since February, he has been sitting on the company’s Board.

A Board of Directors is generally a group of people responsible for the direction of a company. While they are not “in the trenches” of daily activities, a Board typically focuses on the big picture issues.

Although the Clippers’ owner no longer holds an official position, Ballmer is still heavily involved with Microsoft. Ballmer claims that he will hang around as an unofficial voice as various issues arise. Not to mention, he owns a whopping 333 million shares of Microsoft stock. Ballmer owns more Microsoft stock than any individual in the world; yes, even Bill Gates.

Microsoft’s stock is currently trading at around $45 per share, making Ballmer’s 333 million of them worth more than $15 billion.

Yeah, I still don’t think he regrets paying $2 billion for the Clippers. Just a hunch.

Ballmer cited a few reasons for stepping down from the Microsoft Board, and not surprisingly, committing himself to the Clippers was one of the major ones. We haven’t seen much of him as an owner yet but it feels like he has a little Mark Cuban in his blood.

To celebrate Ballmer’s new ownership, the Clippers hosted a rally to introduce their new owner to the fans. If the rally is any indication of how he will act as the owner, the city of Los Angeles is in for a treat.

One thing is clear: Ballmer is not just some rich guy looking to eventually cash in on the exponential growth of NBA franchise value. His energy was on full display and if his words are any indication he is here to win. Via the ESPN story linked above:

“We’re going to be bold. Bold means taking chances,” he said. “We’re going to be optimistic. We’re going to be hard-core. Nothing gets in our way, boom! The hard-core Clippers, that’s us.”

Ballmer seems to realize that, for good reason, the fans expect an owner 100% dedicated to this championship caliber roster. He may not be willing to throw away money like Mikhail Prokhorov but I would be very surprised if Ballmer turns out to be a stingy owner. The fan base is ready to support a championship contender, and Ballmer has the deep pockets to pay some luxury tax bills.

Via Sham Sports, the Clippers’ payroll currently sits at $79.679 million, nearly $3 million over the $76.8 million luxury tax threshold set for 2014-2015. I wouldn’t hold my breath for the Clippers to cut corners and make sacrifices to get under the tax during the season since it would not exactly stand behind the bold behavior Ballmer has promised. That said, the Clippers are hard capped because they signed Spencer Hawes using the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception and Jordan Farmar with the Bi-Annual Exception. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, a hard cap means the team cannot go over the “apron” at $80.8 million for any reason this league year.

Stepping down from Microsoft’s Board is just one more sign that Ballmer is fully dedicated to being the best owner he can be for the Clippers. This is not some sort of expensive, flashy side investment; he’s here to compete.

He got a massive head start simply by not being named Donald Sterling, but it seems like the city and the franchise are behind and excited for Steve Ballmer.

Mark Evans

Mark is an accountant for PwC and a sad Boston Celtics fan. You can follow/tweet at him @JrMarkyMark

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