Magic Johnson joins Ice Cube’s effort to buy sports networks from Disney

Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks hockey games are broadcast on regional sports networks formerly owned by Fox that are up for sale.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Ice Cube’s underdog bid to acquire 21 regional sports networks from Walt Disney Co. just got some more VIP support.

Magic Johnson, the NBA Hall of Famer who just stepped down as president of the Los Angeles Lakers, will be joining the bidding group, Ice Cube said in a tweet Wednesday. The rapper-actor is trying to buy the regional sports networks through his 3-on-3 basketball league, Big3, and plans to air content from celebrities and athletes such as Snoop Dogg and Serena Williams. Will Smith has also joined the project.

It’s not clear if Johnson will be lending financial support to the effort, but he now has more time in his schedule. He abruptly resigned as the Lakers’ head of basketball operations this month, citing a desire to return to a more normal — and enjoyable — lifestyle. The Lakers missed the playoffs in superstar LeBron James’ first season with the team, disappointing fans. Johnson also is a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Big3 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Disney agreed to sell the sports networks to get clearance for its $71-billion takeover of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment empire, a transaction that closed last month. Regulators were concerned that Disney would have too much control over sports television if it owned both ESPN and the regional broadcasters. Disney has to sell the networks within 90 days of the Fox deal’s completion on March 19.

Disney just received its final-round bids for the networks. The offers — amounting to more than $10 billion — were submitted by Big3, John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., people familiar with the matter said this week. Liberty is teaming up with major league baseball on its proposal.