Lakers Likely To Stay In Buss Family, Though Questions Remain About Family Dynamics
The Buss family released a statement yesterday regarding the future of the Lakers following the death of Owner Jerry Buss, and it "doesn't seem a sale is likely," according to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. The statement read, "It was our father's often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy." The family has a 66% stake in the Lakers, and that "will now be held in a trust." Lakers Assistant to the President Bob Steiner said that the team "cannot be sold off in smaller pieces, only in its two-thirds entirety." Even if some family members "wanted to sell, there would be factors limiting that possibility." A majority vote (four of six) would be "needed among Buss' adult children" -- Jim (Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel), Jeanie (Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations), Johnny (Lakers Exec VP/Strategic Development), Joey (NBA D-League D-Fenders CEO) Jesse (Lakers Scouting Dir) and Janie Drexel. Buss' ex-wife, JoAnn, "also owns an undisclosed share of the team that is part of the family stake, but she does not get a vote." Jeanie will be "listed as the team's governor, a position that gives her the power to voice the Lakers' vote on issues at owners' meetings." She has been the team's "alternate governor for several years but now takes her father's title." On paper, it "makes her the most powerful of the heirs." Despite "limitations preventing an individual heir from selling the team, the relationship between Jim and Jeanie Buss will be important." AEG Chair Phil Anschutz, who owns Staples Center, the NHL Kings and 27% of the Lakers, has the "right of first refusal if the Buss family wants to sell the franchise." Other investors include Patrick Soon-Shiong (4%) and Majestic Realty President & Chair Ed Roski (3%) (L.A. TIMES, 2/19).
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Steiner said that Jerry Buss had been "away from day-to-day involvement with the team for most of the last two years" (PE.com, 2/18). USA TODAY's Gary Mihoces notes Jim Buss has been "running the basketball side" since '11, while Jeanie has "overseen the business end." The Lakers said that the same "operations model will continue" (USA TODAY, 2/19). In California, Kevin Ding writes with "both Jeanie and Jim groomed to handle their roles, the immediate future should feel the same as they did when Jerry was still around to make final decisions -- although there is valid reason to wonder how -- or for how long -- Jim and Jeanie, who have not gotten along recently, will settle for sharing control." Soon-Shiong "one way or another ... is a prime candidate to increase his ownership interest." Lakers VP/PR John Black said that eldest son Johnny "will manage the Buss family trust along with Jim and Jeanie" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/19). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote the "direction of a franchise that has always been able to reinvent itself over the years is in serious question." Berger: "Where do the Lakers go from here? ... The Lakers' future is now in Jim Buss' hands, which have thus far proven to be too small for the job" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/18). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said there has "been a fear in Southern California" about Jerry Buss' death, as Jim Buss, who is "not his father in any of the ways we’re talking about, is now running the team and has been” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/18). ESPN’s Chris Broussard noted the Lakers have "struggled" under Jim Buss, and they have "not been the well-oiled machine in terms of the way they are run in the past few years that they were for most of Jerry Buss’ tenure." Broussard: "It’s a concern” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/18).
LEAVING A LEGACY: Buss bought the Lakers in '79, and during his ownership won 10 NBA titles and made 16 NBA Finals appearances. CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Moore wrote the Lakers under Buss "weren't just a great team; they were the standard-bearers of excellence," and Buss "ensured it" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/18). ESPN’s Jalen Rose said Buss “helped turn the Lakers into not only a viable basketball team, but into one of the most storied franchises in any sport” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 2/18). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes Buss was "the perfect owner who hired good people, put up enough money, encouraged risk and never got in the way" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/19). ESPN's J.A. Adande wrote Buss "never forgot that the product came first, so he steadily reinvested the proceeds into the payroll" (ESPN.com, 2/18). In San Antonio, Buck Harvey writes Buss "tried to work within the margins." For example, in '00 when the NBA "introduced the luxury tax, Buss announced the Lakers would never pay an additional dime." But the "competitive instincts usually took over" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 2/19). ESPN's Israel Gutierrez: “The guy just loved winning and would do it at any cost” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Buss was the "connection from title to title, the star of stars." From "Magic to Kareem, from Riley to West, from Shaq to Kobe, Buss was the self-made icon who commanded the biggest respect in the room" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/18). Lakers G Kobe Bryant said, "I hope L.A. understands everything that he has accomplished in a very competitive sport with some very, very competitive teams. (Winning 10 titles), that's ridiculous ... It's absolutely silly" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/19).
MEMORIAL PLANS: ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi reported there are "plans to honor Buss" before tomorrow's game against the Celtics. The team also is "planning a separate memorial service, possibly held at the Nokia Theatre across the street from Staples Center, this week or next week" (ESPNLA.com, 2/18). The Lakers said that funeral and memorial services "are pending." In L.A., Mark Medina noted in "lieu of flowers, the Buss family has also requested any donations go to the Lakers Youth Foundation or a charity of the donor's choice" (DAILYNEWS.com, 2/18).