Dick Parsons, who played basketball at the University of Hawaii, finally made it to the NBA.
The 66-year-old former Citigroup Inc. chairman was named interim chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that he said is “in the middle of a maelstrom” after owner Donald Sterling was banished for racist remarks.
Parsons, who was Time Warner (TWX:US) CEO from 2002 to 2007, said in a telephone interview yesterday that there’s no blueprint for what he’s about to undertake at the request of National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver.
Parsons said he will arrive in Los Angeles this weekend, and that he didn’t know how long the interim job would last.
“I don’t really know 100 percent what to expect,” said Parsons, adding that he resigned from the board of Madison Square Garden Co. (MSG:US), which owns the New York Knicks. “I wasn’t looking to go back to work, really. I don’t like basketball. I love basketball. Parenthetically, I finally made it to the NBA. That’s a joke.”
What Parsons said he’s taking seriously is steadying a Clippers franchise that’s been in a tempest since Sterling told a female friend that he didn’t want her publicizing her relationships with minorities, including hall-of-famer Magic Johnson, whom he didn’t want at Clippers games.
Besides banishing Sterling for life, Silver said he would press owners to force a sale of the team. Sterling hasn’t said whether he would oppose the forced sale of the club, which lost some sponsors in the wake of the owner’s comments.
“This went off like flash paper,” Parsons said of the response to Sterling’s remarks. “This is bigger than just the Clippers and even the NBA. How Adam and the league, and ultimately how all of us work our way through this, is going to say a lot about where we go on these issues going forward.”
The turmoil comes as the Clippers trail 2-1 in their best-of-seven second-round playoff series with the Oklahoma City Thunder following a 118-112 Game 3 loss last night in Los Angeles. Also last night, the Indiana Pacers beat the Washington Wizards 85-63 to lead their Eastern Conference series by two games to one.
Parsons fills the void left by the departure of team President Andy Roeser, who this week took an indefinite leave of absence.
“My job is to oversee the team and players, the fans, advertisers, supporters and the team’s relationship with the community,” said Parsons, who is a senior adviser at Providence Equity.
Parsons said he will play no role in the sale process, leaving that to the NBA.
“All hands on this side are hopeful that they’ll be able to work through the current owner’s thoughtful and constructive transition of the team,” Parsons said. “How quickly that’s going to happen I can’t say.”
A number of suitors have emerged as possible buyers for the Clippers, including music executive David Geffen, who said his bid group would include Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey. Others who have expressed interest in buying the team with the third-best record in the league this season are former Live Nation Entertainment Inc. Chairman Irving Azoff and Johnson, who along with Guggenheim Partners executives paid a record $2.15 billion for baseball’s Dodgers.
As for the Clippers, who are led by All-Stars Chris Paul, president of the players’ association, and Blake Griffin, Parsons said he knows they’re “in the hunt” for a championship.
“They’ve held together,” he said of the team’s players and coach Doc Rivers, who will preside over basketball operations. “Now that the Knicks are out of the picture, ‘Hey, I’m all about the Clippers.’”
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