Buss family feud over Lakers appears to end with Jeanie as controlling owner
The monthlong fight between Jeanie Buss and her brothers, Jim and Johnny, to control the Lakers is over.
The three siblings have agreed for Jeanie to serve as controlling owner and on the team’s board of directors as long as the family owns the Lakers. They filed papers in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday asking a judge to issue an order approving the accord.
“The message is clear here: Do not underestimate Jeanie Buss,” her attorney, Adam Streisand, told the Los Angeles Times. “There is not going to be a palace coup. Not now. Not ever.”
The ill-fated takeover attempt cost Jim Buss his spot as a co-trustee for the four trusts through which the Buss family own 66% of the team.
According to a person familiar with the situation, Jim Buss resigned as co-trustee Thursday as part of a requirement by Jeanie Buss to resolve the dispute. Her younger sister and staunch ally, Janie, replaced the brother, joining Jeanie and Johnny Buss as co-trustees.
The person said there was no financial settlement with Jim Buss.
If he had not consented to the arrangement, attorneys for Jeanie Buss were prepared to ask the court to remove him as co-trustee. The order is expected to be finalized at a hearing Wednesday; the probate court trial scheduled for May 15 won’t happen.
The three-paragraph stipulation requires the brothers to “take all actions reasonably available to them, including voting the Trust’s shares” to ensure Jeanie Buss is elected each year as controlling owner and a director. Janie Buss signed a separate document agreeing to be bound by the stipulation.
In a brief email to The Times on Monday, Johnny Buss declined to comment because “this is a private organization and family matter.”
“It is difficult for me to remain quiet as many of the articles and stories are full of misreporting and does not cover the truth and reasons of what has transpired,” he wrote.
Jim Buss didn’t return phone and text messages seeking comment.
The brothers called an annual shareholders meeting last month, three days after Jeanie Buss overhauled the front office. She hired Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations and removed Jim Buss as executive vice president of basketball operations.
The meeting’s 10-point agenda included approving an unusual $25 million distribution to shareholders and $10,000 per month in compensation for directors with a stake in the team.
The brothers, in their failed proposal, put forth four directors for the five-member board: themselves, AEG President Dan Beckerman and investor Romie Chaudhari. Jeanie Buss wasn’t among them.
The family trusts require her to serve as controlling owner — and for the co-trustees to support her role — but the team’s bylaws say she must be a director to hold the position.
Jeanie Buss sought a temporary restraining order to block the meeting, then pulled the request when the brothers abruptly postponed the meeting and agreed to reelect her as controlling owner.
The sibling feud, simmering since last fall, spilled into public. In court documents, Jeanie Buss called Jim Buss “completely unfit” to oversee basketball operations for the Lakers and worried about the franchise’s future if the brothers took control.
“Despite the fact that I gave my brother Jim ample time to prove himself in his role … I could not allow the damage being done to the franchise over the past few years to continue,” Jeanie Buss said in the documents.
The matter appeared to move toward resolution a week and a half ago when the brothers signed a two-page consent agreement to waive the annual shareholders meeting and elect Jeanie Buss and four others as directors. Jim Buss wasn’t among them.
This is the second legal victory for Streisand involving a Los Angeles basketball team. He represented Steve Ballmer in 2014 during the legal struggle with Donald Sterling over the $2 billion sale of the Clippers.
Staff writer Tania Ganguli contributed to this report.
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