The legendary owner of the Los Angeles Lakers has died of kidney failure at the age of 80. Jerry Buss passed away on 18 February in a Los Angeles hospital, having battled cancer since 2012. In a statement, the Buss family said it would do everything it could to “honour his wish" to keep the Lakers in family hands.
Buss bought the team in 1979, having developed a vast property empire in Los Angeles during the 1950s and 1960s. Under his watch, the Lakers won 10 championships, and in January 2013 was valued at $1 billion (€750 billion) by Forbes.
The Buss family is by far the majority shareholder of the team, with a 66% stake.
In the statement, the family said: "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."
Raised by his mother, Buss won a scholarship to study at the University of Wyoming and later went on the gain a PhD in physical chemistry. He began investing in real estate in the late 1950s and the success of his business – which involved residential, office and hotel properties – facilitated his purchase of the Lakers.
Buss’s careful planning before his death means the basketball team looks unlikely to part from family control. The 66% stake owned by his six adult children – Jim, Jeanie, Johnny, Joey, Jesse and Janie Drexel – and Buss’s ex–wife, JoAnn, will now be held in a trust.
Bob Steiner, the family’s longtime spokesman, said the trust would ensure that the family share could not be sold off in smaller pieces, but only in its entirety. A majority vote – four out of Buss’s six children – would be needed to sell, and Buss’s ex-wife has no voting privileges concerning any potential sale.
Moreover, next-gens Jeanie and Jim are already heavily involved with the team, with the former running the business and the latter controlling basketball operations.