Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > Ballmer Discusses Lifelong Michigan Support, Philanthropy, and Team Ownership Journey

Ballmer Discusses Lifelong Michigan Support, Philanthropy, and Team Ownership Journey

June 2, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Ballmer believes it’s “irresponsible” if he hadn’t focused his philanthropy on economic mobility in our region, which includes work with the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degree program.
  • According to Ballmer, owning a sports team delivers much more complex issues than the other non-sports businesses he’s been involved with.
  • Ballmer’s transparency and accountability levels increased once he began running the Los Angeles Clippers.

 width=Steve Ballmer, co-founder of Ballmer Group and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Arn Tellem, vice chairman of Pistons Sports and Entertainment, sat down on Thursday morning during the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference to talk about Ballmer’s lifelong connection to Michigan, his journey into philanthropy, and the heightened business challenges in running a sports team.

Long before becoming the chief executive officer of Microsoft, Ballmer was “deeply grounded” in metro Detroit. He grew up in Oak Park and Farmington Hills respectfully, studied college prep at Lawrence Tech, and was the valedictorian in his Detroit Country Day School graduating class.

“I feel this great sense of renaissance–no pun intended–in Detroit and in the area. And that makes me really happy,” Ballmer said. “I know it’s hard to make a big comeback. But I’m so pleased to see Detroit coming back.”

 width=Ballmer credited his wife, Connie, for encouraging him to join her in her own established philanthropy efforts following his retirement from Microsoft and acquiring the Los Angeles Clippers. As a professional team, the Ballmers founded the Ballmer Group, which primarily focuses on economic mobility. The organization believes “every kid deserves a chance” at a better life, regardless of how they started life. Ballmer further detailed the variety of organizations they partner with to give people better lives, including the Detroit Regional Chamber’s own Detroit Drives Degrees program.

“We were blessed with a lot financially. Things worked out great at Microsoft,” Ballmer said. “It would be irresponsible if we hadn’t picked something of this ilk.”

Tellem and Ballmer finished their conversation talking about running a sports team. Ballmer compared it to being “a super fan,” as the amount of data and information he comes across in his enjoyable but “complicated” business duties as owner of the Clippers.

“One thing I really appreciate is how the business is very accountable in quantifiable [information]. If you want experience understanding accountability, own a sports team,” Ballmer said. “There’s radical transparency in sports. There’s literally almost nothing that I know that our fans don’t know…they can look at the same analytics, the same statistics, the same games.”

Thank you to the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation for sponsoring this event.