Los Angeles Lakers legal fight is head-on collision of Busses
By Andrew Dalton | Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Jeanie Buss went to court Friday to stop what her attorneys call an attempt by brothers Jim and Johnny Buss to oust her as controlling owner and president of the Los Angeles Lakers, an allegation the brothers’ attorneys say has no basis in reality.
The matter came to a quick end when Jeanie Buss withdrew her request for a temporary restraining in Los Angeles County Superior Court after the brothers dropped their request for a board meeting she felt was a move against her, but it may just be the opening skirmish in a bigger family fight over one of the most-storied franchises in sports. A larger lawsuit in probate court is pending.
“It is good news for fans that Jim and Johnny backed down in court today, but I’m afraid it’s just the beginning,” Adam Streisand, attorney for Jeanie Buss, said in an email to The Associated Press.
The public spat comes just over a week after Jeanie Buss ousted Jim Buss as the Lakers’ executive vice president of basketball operations and replaced him with Magic Johnson. She also fired longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak, who Johnson replaced with player agent Rob Pelinka.
Under the team structure set up by the siblings’ late father Jerry Buss, Jeanie Buss is controlling owner with final say, but the brothers, and others, have ownership stakes in the team.
Robert Sacks, attorney for the brothers, told the AP by phone that the brothers have no interest in wresting control from their sister and the entire court fight is unnecessary.
“Both Jim Buss and Johnny Buss hoped that any issues would be handled within the family,” Sacks said. He added that the brothers have said both verbally and in corporate documents that they support keeping her as controlling owner.
Jeanie Buss’ filing said that the brothers had requested a board of directors meeting be held next week and included a list of four proposed directors who could be elected there.
That list did not include Jeanie Buss, who is required to be a director in order to be a controlling owner. Buss and her attorneys took that as a sign that they intended to oust their sister, and went to court to stop it.
Robert Sacks, attorney for the brothers, said they did indeed want a board of directors meeting because the organization was overdue for one, but that it had nothing to do with wresting control from Jeanie Buss.
The brothers withdrew their request for the meeting, and Jeanie Buss withdrew the court request to stop it.
An initial hearing in a potential probate trial between the siblings is scheduled for May.
“I’m confident we will continue to uphold Dr. Buss’s wishes and Jeanie will remain in control,” Streisand said.
The fight is just the latest round of negative news and upheaval for the Lakers, who for decades had an ownership and management structure that was the envy of the league.
The possible probate battle and ongoing family feud that looms is more reminiscent of the traditionally dysfunctional Los Angeles Clippers, whose then-owner Donald Sterling and estranged wife Shelly Sterling got into an ugly probate-court fight over the ownership and sale of the team.
The Lakers have already had an ugly set of seasons on the court, steadily declining since their last back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. They’ve had among the worst records in the league in recent years and haven’t made the playoffs since 2013.