Family Business Lessons From Lakers Owner Jerry Buss

Date posted: February 21, 2013

Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who passed away on February 18, helped make the team one of the biggest brands in sports. How did he do it?

Dr. Jerry Buss’ legendary status on the basketball court can be attributed to a keen sense of business vision and an even greater taste for talent. The sequence of events that lead the Los Angeles Lakers brand into, arguably, the largest sports franchise in history was not luck but a vision of investing heavily in talent early on. Many of the high-stakes moves created by Jerry Buss’ ownership career can be applied to the thriving world of startups.

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Despite growing up as a  child of the Depression, Buss obtained a doctorate in physical chemistry and later prospered in real estate ventures, enabling him to pursue his love of sports. After buying the Lakers in 1979, Buss spent heavily for marquee lineups headed by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Jerry West, the Lakers’ former star guard, orchestrated their success as general manager together with two of pro basketball’s most renowned coaches, first Pat Riley and then Phil Jackson.

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How will the death of Buss change the family-owned team’s future?

There is little doubt that the ownership of the team will stay in the family; the Buss family said as much in a statement released by the Lakers on Monday after Jerry Buss’ death at age 80. But the direction of a franchise that has always been able to reinvent itself over the years is in serious question. Where do the Lakers go from here?

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