"Some people own sports franchises more as a business, a steppingstone to fame. But I own it mainly because I love it. It's a corny line, but they say, "When you bleed, you bleed for blue and gold." I was a Laker fan a long time before I was fortunate enough to own them. I have owned them for 27 years and I truly have loved every moment of it...I went into it because I love the Lakers and when you love the Lakers, you want them to win so badly that you will work tirelessly ... tirelessly to make that happen, and essentially I think that's how we have been so successful." - Jerry Buss in 2006
Jerry Buss, enigmatic owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most storied franchises in all of sports, is a pretty simple man. He's a doctor who doesn't practice, a former real-estate tycoon with no real property, a multimillionaire who doesn't flash his cash. He runs the ultimate family business and all but one of his six children are involved in some way.
But what do we know about Jerry Buss?
- Gerald Hatten Buss was born on January 27, 1934 in Salt Lake City, UT; his family moved to Kemmerer, WY when he was very young and that's where he spent his childhood
- He worked his way through college (the University of Wyoming), graduating with a B.S. in just two years; he went on to earn a M.S. and a Ph.D, in physical chemistry from the University of Southern California, all by the time he was 24
- He briefly served on the faculty of USC's chemistry department and began investing in real estate so he could earn money while continuing to teach; once he started making money, he quit teaching and became a full-time real estate investor, eventually forming a company, Mariani-Buss Associates, with business partner Frank Mariani.
- In 1979, Buss purchased the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, The Forum, and a ranch from Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke for a then-record $67.5MM; he later sold the Kings, but kept The Forum (whose naming rights he sold to Great Western Bank) and the Lakers (for which we are all forever grateful)
"His goal was to always have enough money to own season tickets," Buss' daughter Jeanie says. "He never thought he would own a team."
- In 1997, he took over the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA, buying the team outright in 2002, but left the management of the team to his son Johnny; the Sparks won back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002 under coach Michael Cooper; the team was sold in 2006
- In 1999 the Lakers, Sparks and Kings moved into their new home, Staples Center, located near he heart of Downtown Los Angeles
- Buss was the man who brought cheerleaders to professional basketball, bringing songleaders from USC and UCLA together to form the Laker Girls in 1979; they're entering their 33rd season (but not the same ladies, of course!); every NBA team now has a dance troupe, but the Lakers were first--the gold standard (along with a bit of purple)
- In 1985 Buss and Bill Daniels launched Prime Ticket Network, which became the nation's premier regional sports television entity; Prime Ticket later became what is now Fox Sports Net West and FSN West 2
- Under Jerry Buss' leadership, the Lakers franchise has won 10 NBA Championships, 16 Western Conference titles, and 17 Pacific Division titles
- Buss was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on August 13, 2010; he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 30, 2006
- Buss has been paying taxes up front to ward off the inheritance tax that could force his children to sell the team in the future, something they all agree should not happen; the Lakers' new deal with Time Warner, which takes effect at the start of the 2012-2013 season, should help alleviate any worries on that score
- Buss has been a high-stakes cash game poker player for many years, but recently he has been more active in tournament games; he placed 3rd in the 1991 World Series of Poker seven-card stud event and tool 2nd place in the 2003 World Poker Tour Freeroll invitational; he has appeared in the GSN series High Stakes Poker and the NBC late-night series Poker After Dark.
- Buss was cited for DUI on May 29, 2007; his youngest son Jesse was cited for the same offense on December 2, 2011
- In January 2008, Buss donated $7.5 million to USC's Department of Chemistry to fund two endowed chairs and an endowed scholarship fund for chemistry graduate students; the two chairs were to be named after his mentors at USC, professors Sidney Benson and David Dows. Buss is an inaugural member of the USC College Board of Councilors.
The Buss children
- Johnny, who he ran the Sparks during their championship years and up until the team was sold; he is now out of the business of sports, having put his faith in Jim and Jeanie
- Jeanie, the head of business operations; she is involved in all aspects of the organization and attends all NBA meetings (including the lockout meetings this past summer); Jeanie and Phil Jackson have been dating since 2000
- Jim, Jerry's second son and successor; Jim was assistant to Mitch Kupchak for six years (1998 - 2004); he's been deeply involved in running the team for the past 3 years, and this past year has taken the reins fully; it was he who made the decision to hire Mike Brown
- Janie, the second daughter, is the director of charitable services and also runs the Lakers Youth Foundation which hands out almost $500,000 in grants every year
- Joey, team president of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers' D-league team; he also attends NBA Board of Governers meetings with Jerry and Jeanie; most people remember him as the fresh-faced kid who accepted the 2009 Larry O'Brien trophy from NBA Commissioner David Stern when the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in the Finals
- Jesse, the youngest who is only peripherally involved with the team while deciding what he wants to be when he grows up
So, what do you know about Gerald Hatten "Jerry" Buss?