The assumption behind the Machiavellian move by Jim Buss and his older brother Johnny to wrest control of the Lakers from Jeannie Buss was a power play. Just days before Jeanie, the controlling owner of the Lakers, had relieved Jim of his power as head of basketball operations (along with Mitch Kupchak) putting Magic Johnson in charge. The logical leap was Jim wanted his power back.
But now, he may just want cash.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN has a fantastic bit of reporting up breaking down the Shakespearian Buss family drama, and sister Janie Buss said her two brothers want to cash out.
“This is something huge and it’s not going to go away. They’re trying to bust the trust so they can sell their [interests],” younger sister Janie Buss says. “And if they sell, that’ll leave the rest of us in a minority.”
Janie says she thinks that Johnny and Jim each have different motivations but that their endgame is the same: to cash out.
“Growing up, Johnny was the kid who brought the ball to the park and when things didn’t go his way, he took the ball and ran,” Janie says. “I don’t want to call him a poor sport, because a poor sport would be someone who lost a game and kicked the referee. No, Johnny took the ball away so nobody could play.
“Jimmy will bring the ball, but he’ll be like, ‘Everyone gets to play, but you have to put a dollar in to play. He tries to figure out things mathematically, how to get the best advantage.”
First, an explanation of the minority comment. Currently, each of the six Buss children own 11 percent of the team through four trusts (AEG owns 25 percent, there are other minority owners, but the Buss block is the majority). Cash out two of them and the Buss family share would drop to 44 percent.
The trust is written in such a way that the other Buss children have to take steps to make and keep Jeanie as the controlling owner.
Just buying out the brothers by the Buss children is not that simple — the Lakers are worth an estimated $3 billion, according to Forbes. That means each older brother’s share is in the $330 million range, and for the Buss family the Lakers are the family business — it makes them a lot of money, but not that much money. There would be groups interested, but the Buss family doesn’t want to give up control.
Only one thing is for sure: The Game of Thrones power struggle in Los Angeles is far from over. The palace intrigue and maneuvering is going to be a summer hit and maybe beyond.