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Guggenheim execs say they joined Geffen bid for NBA's Clippers

By Ronald Grover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The co-founder of investment bank Guggenheim Partners and its president are helping billionaire media executive David Geffen put together a group to bid on the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team.

Guggenheim said in a statement on Wednesday that co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Walter and President Todd Boehly are joining Geffen's existing group of bidders, which includes television icon Oprah Winfrey and Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison.

Among competing bidders are former Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer and billionaire Anthony Ressler.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling, banned from the National Basketball Association for racist remarks, has handed controlling interest in his team to his wife Shelly Sterling, the co-owner. She began negotiating with the league to sell the club, Reuters reported on Friday, citing sources.

Guggenheim said in a statement that the two top executives were teaming up with Geffen to put together a bid, but that the bank itself was not officially involved in the process.

"Guggenheim is not involved in any way," a spokesman wrote in an e-mail. "Mark Walter and Todd Boehly are working with David Geffen and others to put together a bid to buy the Clippers."

Bids are due at 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, according to a person with knowledge of the bidding process. A decision could be made by the end of the week.

In 2012, Walter headed a group including basketball great Magic Johnson that bought the LA Dodgers baseball team for $2.15 billion. Johnson has said he would likely join the bid if his Guggenheim partners made an offer.

Ressler met with Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling at a Malibu restaurant last weekend to discuss a potential bid, according to the source with knowledge of the bidding process. Representatives for Ballmer and Ressler could not be reached immediately.

The NBA has scheduled a hearing for June 3, when Donald Sterling can address the charges to his fellow owners. The league could vote to terminate his ownership of the franchise, which would require backing by 23 of the other 29 owners, the NBA said in a May 19 press release.

In a letter to the NBA, Donald Sterling said he had received offers for more than $2.5 billion for the franchise but did not identify potential buyers.

Donald Sterling, controlling owner of the Clippers for 33 years, came under fire when TMZ.com posted an audio recording of him criticizing a female friend for publicly associating with black people, including Johnson.

(Reporting By Ronald Grover; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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