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Catching Up With Los Angeles Clippers Owner and Microsoft Ex-CEO Steve Ballmer

Mar 10, 2016

A version of this post titled “Spitballing With Steve Ballmer” originally appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter.

As I said more than once during my interview Wednesday night in San Francisco with the former CEO of Microsoft, it’s good to be Steve Ballmer.

Once the preeminent sales executive in the technology industry, Ballmer now owns the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers. He isn’t exactly a changed man since stepping down. He’s still intense, animated, candid, and a ton of fun to talk to. Conflicted with a speaking commitment to Fortune and an important road game for his team against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Ballmer found a nearby TV and luckily most of our talk happened during halftime. (The Clippers lost 120-108.)

Yet Ballmer clearly is far more relaxed, if by his own admission a little out of touch with Microsoft (msft) and the technology industry. He is Microsoft’s largest shareholder, with about a 4% stake, but he left the board when he bought the Clippers, making him legally an outsider.

L.A. Clippers Owner and Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Goe...

LIVE: Chatting with L.A. Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Posted by Fortune on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

He wishes Microsoft broke out more data on its cloud business—and has told management so. On the other hand, he graciously applauds his successor, Satya Nadella, for pivoting the company to a more open technology posture. Unsolicited, he applauded Nadella’s decision to embrace Linux. When I asked if that was tough given his past opposition, he deftly noted that companies have a time and a place for a given strategy. Microsoft did extremely well financially for his refusal to embrace open-source software, and he’s not apologizing for that.

Some surprises:

* Part of the fun of Ballmer is that he acknowledges that having fun is a perfectly good reason to do something, including owning a basketball team.

* He’s exercising, doing yoga, taking his time, and even meditating these days.

* His biggest learning from accumulating a 4% stake in Twitter (twtr)—currently under water—is that he doesn’t particularly like being an investor.

* Together with a handful of people he is putting time and money into a kind of publicly available “10-K for government.” The website hasn’t launched but he hopes it will be a way for citizens to get a cogent snapshot of how their government spends their money.

* Ballmer and Bill Gates, once his best friend, have gone their separate ways. Yet their wives were together Wednesday, which seemed to please him immensely.

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