In recent decades, ownership of a professional sports team has gradually transitioned from vanity side project into the veritable business arena. Just look at serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban's purchase of the Dallas Mavericks, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen scooping up the Portland Trailblazers or Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert buying the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So after a racial scandal involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling last month precipitated that team’s sale, there has inarguably been no hotter athletic property on the market.

Until now.

Following a loud proliferation of bids -- from Oprah Winfrey and Sean Combs, among others --  former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has reportedly struck a deal to purchase the Clippers for $2 billion. That price marks an astonishing increase over the $12.5 million Sterling paid to acquire the team in 1981.

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Sterling’s wife, Shelly, announced the sale after inking a pact with Ballmer yesterday just before midnight. She did so as the just-named sole trustee of the Sterling family estate, after her husband “was found by experts to be mentally incapacitated,” reports ESPN.

At the same time, however, attorneys for Donald Sterling told the outlet that a sale could not proceed without his consent.

The deal was allegedly fast tracked by Shelly Sterling and Ballmer in order to predate a meeting with the NBA’s board of governors scheduled for next Tuesday, in which the Sterling family’s ownership of the Clippers could be entirely terminated.

However, the NBA league office must still ratify the sale, and Ballmer must be approved by three-fourths of the league’s owners, reports ESPN.

The messy ordeal smacks of a similar franchise sale almost exactly two years ago, when Frank McCourt divested his Los Angeles Dodgers to the Guggenheim group, also for $2 billion. Not unlike Sterling, McCourt was forced to sell the team after he took it into bankruptcy following a nasty divorce.

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