The Lakers and the Buss family are in a very odd space right now. Barely more than two years ago, the team won a title with Jeanie Buss at the helm. But the team has underperformed since that championship and a number of decisions made based on finances and money have brought Jeanie back into the center of focus for criticism.
The calls for Jeanie and the Buss family to sell the team from fans have not quite reached the fever pitch of staging a protest in front of Staples Center/Crypto.com Arena, but they are growing in volume with each Lakers loss. So far, Jeanie has given absolutely zero indication that she would ever sell the team, but some recent comments from Brian Windhorst of ESPN could raise an eyebrow.
On his latest episode of Brian Windhorst & the Hoop Collective podcast, Windhorst had some interesting speculation that the Buss family could eventually sell part of their stake in the franchise.
“I think it’s possible the Buss family could sell part of the Lakers at some point. You know they own two-thirds of the Lakers. I could see them selling part of the Lakers someday... Let’s say [the Suns] sell for $3.5 (billion). What do you think the Lakers would be worth in that environment? I mean, $5 to $6 (billion). And to be honest with you, like if I were Jeanie Buss, I wouldn’t even accept a phone call to pitch me, even to buy a percentage of the team, for less than $6 billion.”
Again, this is purely speculation from Windhorst and is not reporting in any way. But if this summer and offseason have taught us anything, it’s that even speculation from Windhorst is founded in something. Because this isn’t a video podcast, we don’t know if he hit that pose while doing this but we’ll let your imagination wander.
Circling back to the Lakers, though, one of the underlying issues with the team is that the Buss family does not have another revenue source other than the team, which could play a role in their lack of desire to go deeper into the luxury tax. That factor, as Windhorst notes, could play a role in a decision to sell a piece of the franchise.
“I’ve talked about this in the past, you have to understand, the Buss family owns two-thirds of the Lakers, 66, 67 percent. And there are six Buss children (as part of that ownership trust). And that’s their core family business. They don’t have a Microsoft stock that pays them hundreds of millions, they don’t have a tech company. So let’s say the Lakers make $100 million, that means the Buss family gets $67 million of that, and now you split that six different ways, all of them have $10 million and change per year. That sounds like a lot, but when you think about ‘hey, maybe we could sell 10% of the team and get $600 million for it or something, then all of a sudden all of them get $100 million.
“I could see Mark Walter and Todd Boehly of Guggenheim, they recently bought 25, 27 percent of the Lakers. They bought out Phil Anschutz, who owned Crypto.com Arena and owns the (Los Angeles) Kings. He owned 27 percent, he sold out a year or so ago. We never heard what they paid for that, but my guess is it was huge. So it’s already been established, there has already been a percentage of the Lakers sold in the last year. It wasn’t by the Buss (family), so that’s just something to keep an eye on.”
Again, it should be noted that, so far, Jeanie has not given any indication of selling the Lakers. In fact, she’s explicitly stated she has no plans to sell the team. Even if the Lakers were to execute the plan laid out by Windhorst, I don’t see a scenario in which the Buss family doesn’t maintain majority ownership of the franchise with Jeanie remaining the controlling owner.
It’s also clear, though, that money is factoring more and more into the Lakers' decision-making. As recently as this week, Darvin Ham cited luxury tax and, more specifically, the repeater tax as a reason for them not making a roster move.
Losing is always going to cause distress, but losing and then citing a lack of funds available as an owner of one of the most valuable franchises in the world is a surefire way to really rile up a fanbase. In theory, the plan laid out by Windhorst makes sense, even though it’s making assumptions about the Jeanie and the Buss family’s thinking and desires for the franchise.
For now, though, it’s nothing more than a theory, even if it’s a theory from an informed speculator in Windhorst. And given the fact the only quotes we have on the matter from Jeanie herself are outright against the idea, it will likely stay little more than a theory for at least the foreseeable future.