What Will Steve Ballmer's Clipper Deal Mean for His Philanthropy?

Hey, wait a minute, Ballmer: You're not supposed to blow that big fortune and all your new free time buying basketball teams. You're supposed to start a bold second career as a philanthropist. After all, $20 billion could make a real dent in any problem you jumped on. 

You have as much money as George Soros, my friend, and almost as much as Mike Bloomberg. These guys are turning themselves into historic figures who'll go down with the likes of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Not to mention your old boss Bill Gates, who has literally saved millions of lives. Even quirky Paul Allen has moved past his Jimi Hendrix phase and turned into a serious player in philanthropy. 

But you'd rather be jumping up and down on the side of a basketball court like Mark Cuban? 

Obviously you didn't read my blog post a while back, where I mapped out your new philanthropic career. That was the one where I said that you were lucky to have a wife like Connie Snyder Ballmer, who's been building a track record in the nonprofit world while you were making the big bucks. I'm sure Connie has lots of big ideas for spending your billions, even if you don't.

In fact, though, I know you have serious interests of your own, like ensuring more opportunities for young people worldwide. Microsoft's philanthropic arm started a big push in that area under your leadership, as we wrote in our full profile of you, so this one is all teed up.

I know it must have been hard to get squeezed out of your job at 58, but age discrimination is to be expected in an industry that makes gadgets. And if it's a midlife crisis we're talking about here, why not just buy a red sports car? 

Wait, I just remembered something: After laying out $2 billion for the Clippers, you'll still have $18 billion left!


So I guess everything I've been saying about your philanthropy still holds. You still have the resources to have a profound impact somewhere. You still have a wife that can guide you through the social sector. You still have your own interests in youth, and the head start that gives you in an important area (given how much of the world is under 20, as you've noted yourself.) 

Anyway, owning a basketball team is hardly a full-time job. If Donald Sterling could be a slumlord on the side, I'm sure you can be a top philanthropist. Clearly you're wanting some attention and new adventures. Giving away billions can bring you even more of that than blowing it. 

And if you're really not interested, just let Connie get the Ballmer philanthropy ball rolling. 

Oh, and one last thing: Isn't it about time to sign the Giving Pledge already? I can only imagine how many times Bill Gates has asked you. It'd be a great way to reasure people that the $18 billion you have left will be put to good use.