Report: Jeanie Buss heads to court, blocks first effort by Jim Buss to push her out as Lakers controlling owner

Getty Images
14 Comments

The Shakespearian drama that is the Buss family and their Game of Thrones fight over control of the Lakers seems to be just getting started.

Round one goes to Jeanie Buss.

Just a couple of weeks after she used her power as the team president and person with the hammer to move Jim Buss out as head of Lakers basketball operations and install Magic Johnson in the role, Jim and his brother Johnny took steps to try to push Jeanie out of power, so she went to court to block the move, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Jeanie was able to block the move, according to her attorney.

Jeanie Buss has thwarted an effort by her brothers, Jim and Johnny, to oust her as the Lakers president and controlling owner as the behind the scenes battle for control of the franchise moved into the courtroom.

Attorneys for Jeanie Buss sought a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday to prevent the brothers from holding an emergency meeting next week to elect a new board of directors for the team that didn’t include her. In order to be the controlling owner, she has to be a director.

The brothers withdrew the request for a new election of a team board of governors after Jeanie went to court, according to the report.

There are six Buss children each with an equal share of ownership of the Lakers (each has 11 percent), however, a complex trust put in place by late owner Jerry Buss guides the operation. Jeanie was installed the controlling owner, the one recognized by the NBA as the face of the franchise and the one with the vote for Board of Governors’ meetings. Jim Buss was put in charge of basketball operations by the trust, but Jeanie had the power to change that. She was admittedly hesitant to make a change, but as the Lakers continued to flounder for years through the worst stretch in franchise history she felt she had to make a move. Not only was Jim cleared out, so was GM Mitch Kupchak and long-time head of media relations John Black.

It shouldn’t be surprising Jim made a power play, and he has his brother Johnny Buss helping him make his move, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

In papers filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jeanie Buss maintains that her brother Johnny “with the active participation of (brother) 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.”

According to her court papers, Johnny Buss, also a part owner of the Lakers, recently sent notice to his sister that a proposed slate of four people for the Lakers board included himself and his brother, but not Jeanie.

Right now Jim, Johnny, and Jeanie are the three voted as trustees. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Jim and Johnny argued they had the votes (2-1 among the trustees) to elect new directors. Jeanie went to court to block that saying that the controlling owner always has to be a director and the trust says she is the controlling owner. Johnny withdrew the request and canceled the proposed meeting to vote on new directors.

While this is the first salvo, Jeanie’s attorney told the Los Angeles Times it likely is not the last.

There are six Buss children in the trust. Johnny is the eldest (and has been long rumored to want more power), and he seems to have allied himself with Jim. Jeanie remains the controlling owner and for most Lakers’ fans the face of ownership. Joey and Jesse are respected parts of the Lakers basketball operations side, working their way up the ladder — they reportedly were in the room with Magic and helping make decisions during the trade deadline. Then there is Janie, who used to run the team’s youth foundation but reportedly has been more active in recent years.

The rest of the team is owned by a variety of minority owners, the largest of which is AEG (which also owns Staples Center).

If four of the six Buss children lined up against Jeanie, it could be tough for her to maintain power.

The drama here is far, far from over. Shakespeare better have his quill ready.