Steve Ballmer is the richest owner in sports, with over $50 billion to his name. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he wasn’t born rich. Ballmer worked his way up through the business world. He managed that thanks, in part, to his single-minded qualities. When Ballmer’s against you, he’s against you. When he’s with you, though, he’ll never stop fighting for you.
This fierce personality is how he made Microsoft one of the most profitable companies ever. That’s also why the Clippers are a favorite for winning this year’s NBA Finals. Ballmer is clearly the team’s biggest fan.
Steve Ballmer’s focus on loyalty began with his father
Ballmer doesn’t work for Microsoft anymore. Yet when he bought the Clippers after the previous owner’s infamous scandal, he made a gesture of great loyalty to his former employer. All Apple products were barred in the organization. No more iPads or iPhones. The team went with Microsoft products only. Once Ballmer’s on your side, he never leaves.
According to CelebFamily, this impulse stemmed from his upbringing, in particular, his father. Steve’s dad Henry Ballmer, a Swiss immigrant who worked as a translator at the Nuremberg trials, came to the U.S. to find stable employment.
By the time his son was eight, Henry insisted Steve would become a Harvard graduate. That meant keeping young Steve focused on academics, despite his burgeoning interest in sports. It came with an old-world lesson: If people are willing to help you, they deserve your loyalty.
Why Ballmer insists on only driving Ford vehicles
Henry landed a job with the Ford Motor Company, where he worked his way up to a management role. That meant Ford cars were a standard for the family. For Steve, that period left an indelible mark. It was a working-class job that supported the family to have a comfortable life, and give the future CEO the opportunity to flourish at school with few distractions.
Steve never forgot what Ford provided for his family in exchange for his father’s loyalty. So to this day, according to the Seattle Times, he only buys and drives Ford vehicles. The over the top luxury vehicles reserved for millionaires and billionaires don’t tempt Steve. Despite his immense wealth, he doesn’t care to drive anything else.
How Ballmer’s unflappable loyalty serves him in business
A CNBC profile on Ballmer’s rise to billionaire executive status reveals how his obsession with loyalty played out in practical ways. After becoming friends with Bill Gates at Harvard, his pal encouraged him to leave business school. Ballmer became a sort of all-purpose assistant to Gates, bringing his business acumen to a fledgling company run mostly by single-minded programmers and engineers.
About 20 years later, Ballmer came to run the entire company. Because of his loyalty to his pal Gates, he risked a lower-paying job that required his dedication to grow into something lucrative. By the end of his tenure, he was a billionaire. Now, Ballmer could return to his original love: sports.
As the Clippers owner, Ballmer puts everything behind his players. He dove into a $400 million investment in a new arena. Ballmer enthusiastically went after Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, turning the Clippers into instant favorites for the 2020 NBA Finals. He inherited the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era as a dud, yet NBA.com reports that both players felt like Ballmer believed in them and held onto them as long as he could.
There’s irony in the Clippers’ new superstar being the downbeat Leonard. The athlete is quiet, measured, and seemingly always scanning the room. He thinks Ballmer has “too much energy,” as ClutchPoints reports. And it’s true. Somehow the owner is the one bringing the fist-pumping swagger. It’s a dichotomy unique to this team; one likely to result in another ring for Leonard.