How will Steve Ballmer measure up against other executives who have purchased sports franchises?
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer won a bidding war to buy the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, for a cool $2 billion dollars. It’s the most expensive team sale in NBA history. So how good an owner will Ballmer be? Here are the track records of some other executives-turned-sports team owners:
The chairman and CEO of Starbucks built a coffee empire, but he didn’t prove to be a good owner of the now-defunct Seattle Supersonics NBA team. He ran the franchise more like a business than a sports team, and feuded with the city of Seattle over funds for a new stadium. Eventually, he committed the ultimate sin, selling the team to an Oklahoma City ownership group. The team, now the Thunder, moved out of Seattle, and fans still haven’t forgiven him.
Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, purchased the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 2002. Fans have considered him a good owner, though his biggest challenge has been building a new stadium for the team after controversy arouse surrounding public funding for the construction. After years of debate, the new stadium broke ground this month.
Though Huizenga wasn’t the founder and CEO of Blockbuster, many thought he was. As the face of the company, Huizenga built a movie empire—that is, until Netflix came along. His epic success and then fall with baseball’s Florida Marlins mirrored that of Blockbuster. Huizenga made it on TIME’s Most Hated Sports Team Owners list for dismantling the 1997 Championship Team (which won the World Series after just four years of existence) for financial reasons. Huizenga sold the team in 1998 after fans boycotted the games and attendance fell dramatically.
The CEO of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain bought the NFL’s Cleveland Browns in 2012. In his business, Haslam has faced serious accusations of fraud. Earlier this year, Haslam was publicly asked at a news conference whether the three stooges were running the franchise. At the end of the season he cleaned out the front office—for better or worse.
The chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans is probably best known for the spurned lover maifesto he wrote when NBA superstar LeBron James left his Cleveland Cavaliers franchise in 2010. Quicken Loans came under fire during the subprime mortgage mess, but he’s had a good streak of luck lately with the Cavs, winning the lottery for the third time in the past four years.
The McDonald’s mogul owned baseball’s San Diego Padres from 1974 until his death in 1984. Kroc was reportedly a die-hard fan, though the team didn’t win the Western division title until the year that Croc passed away. His daughter, Joan Kroc, continued to help with the team. Padres player Goose Gossage notoriously once ranted about her that she was “poisoning the world with her cheeseburgers” and meanwhile the players couldn’t have beer in the clubhouse.
Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates and is the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., which manages various business and philanthropic efforts. Allen purchased the Seattle Seahawks in 1997 when then-owner Ken Behring threatened to relocate the NFL team to Southern California. Embraced as the team’s savior, Allen gave birth to a new stadium and a new era in Seattle football. This year the team won its first Super Bowl. Allen also own’s the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, meaning Ballmer’s purchase of the Clippers will make for a Microsoft rivalry in basketball.
Cuban started and sold his own tech company for millions before diversifying his investments. He’s currently the owner of Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures, among other companies. But most people would identify him as the outspoken, die-hard owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Most owners watch from skyboxes in suits. Cuban sits with the fans, wearing team gear—and screaming at the refs. Cuban has been fined over $1.6 million for making critical statements about the referees and the NBA since he purchased a majority share in the team in 2000. The team won the championship against the Miami Heat in 2011.