Buss family battle for control of Lakers moves into court
A behind-the-scenes battle for control of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers has gone public with Jeanie Buss’s lawyer saying she had rebuffed an initial bid by brothers Jim and Johnny to oust her as controlling owner of the club.
Jeanie Buss went to court on Thursday to seek a temporary restraining order preventing the brothers from holding a meeting next week to elect a new board of directors for the storied franchise.
According to court documents, the brothers proposed four directors, but did not include her, and if she isn’t on the board she can’t continue as the controlling owner of the team as outlined in the family trust set up by their late father, longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss who died in 2013 at the age of 80.
The brothers withdrew the request on Friday, but Jeanie Buss’s lawyer Adam Streisand told the Los Angeles Times he did not expect that to be the end of the matter.
“This is no doubt the beginning and not the end of the game-playing,” Streisand told the newspaper. “They don’t have a legal leg to stand on. This is a legal strategy doomed to failure.”
In papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, Buss maintains that her brother Johnny “with the active participation of Jim breached the express terms of the trust that require them to take all actions reasonably available to them to ensure that (Jeanie) remains the controlling owner of the Lakers”.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement that as far as the league is concerned, Jeanie Buss remains in charge of the team.
“Jeanie Buss is the sole Governor of the Los Angeles Lakers and under league rules, she has control over the team,” the statement said. “She has not only been a terrific leader for the Lakers organization, guiding the business before and after her father’s passing, but an incredibly influential voice among all our team owners.”
Two weeks ago, Jeanie Buss shook up the Lakers management, firing Jim Buss as vice president of basketball operations. She also sacked general manager Mitch Kupchak and hired former Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson as president of basketball operations.
In announcing the moves she said Johnson — who sparked the Lakers to five NBA titles in the 1980s — would be in charge of all basketball operations and report directly to her.
Three days after that shakeup, Johnny Buss, who is in charge of corporate development for the Lakers, notified his sister of plans for the planned board of directors vote.
The Lakers have won 16 NBA titles. They dazzled Los Angeles and the league in the “Showtime” era of Johnson with championship runs in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
They returned to greatness behind superstar guard Kobe Bryant with five NBA crowns from 2000-2010 but are languishing at 19-43 this season.
The Boston Celtics trounced the Lakers 115-95 on Friday night at Staples Center, where coach Luke Walton insisted the front-office drama wouldn’t impact the team’s performance.
“It’s easy for me (to ignore). I coach and I focus. We’ve got a lot of focus on with our players and what we’re trying to do. Stuff that’s not in my control I don’t spend much time thinking about,” Walton said.