- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Former NBA All-Star Grant Hill has partnered with billionaire investors and longtime Southern California residents Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh to form an ownership group to bid on the Los Angeles Clippers when they are officially put up for sale, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that Hill's group is already regarded by league officials as a viable contender for the Clippers in what is forecast to be a highly competitive auction when the franchise finally hits the open market. One industry source told ESPN.com this week that the bidding could start as high as the $1.5 billion range.
It was widely reported Friday that disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling has struck an agreement with wife Shelly to have her negotiate the sale of the franchise, but NBA officials have not yet signed off on that arrangement and continue to proceed with their plans to press for the outright ouster of the Sterlings from the league.
Hill is just completing his first season in retirement after a 19-year career that featured seven All-Star appearances. Ressler is the co-founder of Ares Management and a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. Karsh is president and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management and currently serves a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors.
Competition for the Clippers, once they hit the open market, is sure to be fierce, with a number of financial heavyweights having already been linked to purchasing the team Donald Sterling has owned since 1981.
The power trio of Oprah Winfrey, David Geffen and Larry Ellison, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso, Lakers minority owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, former NBA star Yao Ming and, of course, Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and his Guggenheim Partners are among the various groups and individuals expected to compete for the Lakers' co-tenants at Staples Center.
Some experts have projected the number of bidders for the Clippers to stray into the double digits, assuming that the league is successful in forcing the sale of the team, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver continues to believe.
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7dMatt Walks, ESPN.com