$25-Million Palimony Suit Filed Against Lakers’ Owner Jerry Buss

Times Staff Writer

A woman who claims that she met Los Angeles Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss in the elevator of a West Hollywood hotel in 1969 and lived with him on and off for the next 15 years, filed a $25-million palimony suit against the millionaire businessman Wednesday, charging that he lied when he pledged he would take care of her for the rest of her life.

Puppi Buss, 36, alleges in the Los Angeles Superior Court complaint that she took Buss’ name at his request, traveled with him, lived with him in homes he owned, cared for him when he was ill and portrayed herself as his wife through most of their years together. Buss, she said, dubbed her “Puppi” as a sign of affection.

The lawsuit asks for part interest in the Lakers basketball team, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, The Forum in Inglewood and a myriad of Buss’ other holdings, including real estate, estimated to be worth more than $250 million.


Buss, who is in Hawaii, could not be reached for comment and a spokesman for The Forum declined to make a statement.

“I think ($25 million) is a conservative request,” said famed palimony and divorce attorney Marvin Mitchelson, who filed the action on behalf of the woman. “I may amend my complaint later to add more.

“But,” Mitchelson quipped, “I’d settle for (Lakers superstars) Magic (Johnson) and Kareem (Abdul Jabbar) and $20 million.”

In 1983, Mitchelson filed similar litigation on behalf of Veronica Buss, who claimed that Buss married her while he was still wed to someone else. That case was settled for an undisclosed sum.

Mitchelson said his latest client, “a very quiet and lovely woman,” prefers not to discuss the relationship publicly.

She was a 19-year-old schoolgirl known as Marsha Lee Osborne when she met Buss, now 54, in the elevator of the Park Sunset Hotel, the attorney said.


“He asked her out, but she didn’t go at first,” Mitchelson said. “She said she thought he was too old and too heavy.”

A month later, however, a trimmed down and more youthful appearing Buss persuaded her to start the relationship, Mitchelson said. Although legally married at the time, Buss was separated from his wife.

Over the course of the affair, Mitchelson said, Buss asked his client “over a couple of hundred times to marry him.” She agreed, but a wedding never took place because Buss “kept putting it off,” the attorney said.

She wed in 1975 but at Buss’ urging, divorced her husband the following year and returned to her lover, Mitchelson said.

According to the Puppi Buss lawsuit, the couple agreed as early as 1970 to portray themselves as man and wife, combining their earnings and assets and promising to divide them should the liaison falter. In return, Puppi Buss abandoned her own “career and professional opportunities . . . so that she could be able to devote her time and attentions to his personal needs.”

In addition to sharing their belongings, the complaint alleges that Buss promised to support his “confidante” and “companion” and to open a retail store for her. Puppi Buss said he opened a maternity shop for her in Palm Springs and then reneged on his commitment by closing it in June, 1984, shortly after he forced her from the English Tudor-style home he had purchased for her in Hollywood.


The lawsuit alleges that Buss ended all cash payments to her in January, 1986.

Now living in Palm Springs, Puppi Buss manages day-care centers and supervises a handful of rental properties.

Had she not become entangled with the millionaire, Mitchelson claims, his client would have pursued a college degree in business.