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Why Steve Ballmer Loves Twitter

May 31, 2017, 2:38 AM UTC
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer poses for a portrait in Culver City, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer poses for a portrait in Culver City, Los Angeles, California September 24, 2014. After Ballmer plunked down $2 billion for the NBA's Clippers, fans might expect the former Microsoft chief executive to be hitting the reset button on a team that has been through a nasty public fight over racism. Don't bet on it. That experience, Ballmer knows, makes his team unique, and it will be part of the story he tells to earn one thing that was not guaranteed by the record price tag: a fan base that will sustain the team for years to come. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL BUSINESS PORTRAIT) - RTR47LNM
Photograph by Lucy Nicholson — Reuters

Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who now owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, also owns a chunk of Twitter.

Two years ago, he took a 4% stake in the popular but growth-challenged social network, On Tuesday, he provided insight into why he invested.

“Twitter is an amazing asset and I think it has a real opportunity to be a real business,” Ballmer said on stage at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

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Twitter has a huge user base—last month it said it had 328 million monthly active users. But for the past few years, the company has struggled to increase revenue. Last month it hired an ad tech executive to help. But because of the economics of online ads, it’s hard for any company other than huge players like Facebook (FB) or Google (GOOGL) to make a profit from digital advertising.

Related: Twitter Hires Ad Exec to Boost Revenue

Ballmer thinks that Twitter’s top management has decisions to make. Critics note that Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, a co-founder who stepped back into the top job two years ago, also remains CEO of Square, the online payment company. Many consider the dual roles to be a stretch, including Ballmer.

Related: Catching Up With LA Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer

“Being a CEO is a tough job at one company. Being CEO of two companies, I can’t imagine,” Ballmer said. “I think Jack will end up picking one or the other.”

As for Twitter’s future? “The business will either get sorted through or become an asset someone else will buy” he said. While there has been a lot of acquisition talk about Twitter—last year Salesforce (CRM) was reportedly interested, but nothing ultimately happened—Microsoft never tried to buy Twitter during Ballmer’s tenure, Ballmer said.

Some say the very presence of Twitter exacerbates political and social tensions at a tough time. But Ballmer said the positive outweighs the negative. “So many good things come out of that real-time information. It gives people direct access to anyone,” he said.

Still he’s not a big tweeter in his own right. As “@clippersteve” on Twitter, Ballmer has posted exactly 36 times since he created that account in August 2014. “I started tweeting frequently early in the basketball season, but how many times can you say ‘whooo, great game?’ I don’t want to be that guy.”