SALT LAKE CITY — To the tune of ‘Let’s Go’ by Calvin Harris and Ne-Yo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer took the stage with Senator Mitt Romney at the Silicon Slopes Summit last week.
The senator said the two first met in 1980, when Romney was interviewing candidates for Bain, a consulting firm, on the campus of Stanford.
Ballmer ended up turning his job offer down, instead choosing to join a startup of roughly 30 people called Microsoft.
His high energy eventually took him to the position of CEO in 2000, at the height of the dot-com bubble and in the wake of a government antitrust lawsuit. He served in the role until 2014. It’s estimated that he still owns about a 4% stake in the company, putting Ballmer’s net worth in the $100 billion range (his wealth grew by $20 billion this year alone).
When Romney asked him about tech competition today, Ballmer said regulators should focus on the spirit of current US antitrust law — consumer harm.
“Are they suppressing competition in a way that will hurt the consumer? I think it’s very hard to argue that they are,” said Ballmer. “Most of the suggestions we hear about how to fix things — don’t fix things… It’s not going to make the world more competitive in a way that’s better for consumers, it will set the consumer back because those companies will lose a whole round of innovation, which I think would be bad.”
When the senator asked him about competition on a global scale, particularly with China, Ballmer highlighted some of the unique advantages the US still holds.
He cited the US being the largest domestic market in the world, and strong American universities.
“We’re the only country in the world that can recruit the best and brightest from every country,” Ballmer said. “We draw on the talent pool from everywhere in the world, including China.”
“We’re not likely to screw it up. I do think government can help us screw it up. Sorry, senator.”
Ballmer purchased the NBA’s Clippers in 2014, for a then-record $2 billion. According to Forbes, the team is now worth roughly $3.3 billion. In September, it was announced that the team will be moving to a new arena that is set to cost $1.2 billion.
In 2017 he launched usafacts.org, which Ballmer said is essentially a 10-K report for the federal government — “very comprehensive, contextual, historic numbers. No fluff.”
“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. So we tried to ground the dialogue there and that’s been our mission… there’s so much government data that is not timely, inconsistent, but there is a lot of data. And on average, by in large, I think it’s pretty good.”
When Romney asked him about Utah and his favorite spots in the state, Ballmer was quick to mention Park City and Deer Valley. He said he also recently completed a bike trip at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.