How Jeanie Buss Took Control of the L.A. Lakers

Buss cleared the path for LeBron James to join the team.

Controlling owner and president of the Los Angeles Lakers Jeanie Buss attends the game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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It was sixteen months ago that Adam Streisand carried the future of the Lakers in a courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, representing Jeanie Buss in the struggle between her and her brothers to control the franchise. Of that time, Streisand says, “We were dangerously close to a nightmare scenario,” according to The Los Angeles Times. But Streisand and Buss won the monthlong legal fight that cemented her as controlling owner of the Lakers. It also kept Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations and eventually cleared the path for All-Star LeBron James to agree to a four-year, $154 million contract when he became a free agent. What happened in court helped shape the team James decided to join.

Tensions between Buss and her siblings started in 2016. In February 2017, Jeanie Buss dismissed Jim Buss as vice president of basketball operations and hired Johnson. But three days later, Johnny Buss called an annual meeting of the Lakers board of directors, and part of the agenda included approving an unusual $25-million payout to shareholders, $10,000 per month compensation for directors with a stake in the team and proposed four directors for the five-person board. The brothers were both candidates, but Jeanie Buss was not.

“The turmoil, the dysfunction, the dissension, and the low morale that existed as a result was just palpable,” Streisand said of the ownership conflict, according to the New York Times. “The moment … Magic came aboard and [general manager] Rob [Pelinka] and everybody was working together as a team again with one goal in mind — to win it all — you could feel it everywhere.”

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