Report: Jim Buss out as Lakers trustee, as Jeanie Buss consolidates power

Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss, circa August 2012. (Getty Images)
Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss, circa August 2012. (Getty Images)

Less than one month after two of her brothers reportedly attempted to make a move to wrest away control of the Los Angeles Lakers from her, Jeanie Buss appears to have swiftly and completely ensured she will remain in charge of one of American professional sports’ marquee franchises. And former Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, it seems, is now all the way out.

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According to Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times, Jeanie Buss and brothers Johnny and Jim Buss “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,” asking a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to “issue an order to that effect,” effectively ending a month of palace intrigue among the children of the late Dr. Jerry Buss.

After the death of the legendary Lakers owner four years ago, Jeanie Buss took the reins of the franchise as its controlling owner, as reportedly dictated by the family trust set up by her father, which owns a 66 percent stake in the Lakers. There are six Buss siblings: Jim, Johnny, Jeanie, Janie, Jesse and Joey. All work in the organization in some capacity.

Jim, Johnny and Jeanie were the three trustees of the trust. The brothers had planned to hold a meeting to elect a new board of directors for the Lakers that didn’t include Jeanie. Not being a director would have meant Jeanie can’t be the controlling owner of the Lakers, which would have violated the trust’s mandate that all trustees “take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure the appointment of [Jeanie] as controlling owner.” That led Jeanie to file a temporary restraining order against her brothers to prevent them from holding that meeting.

Having headed off her brothers’ attempted power move — which Jeanie claimed in court documents was fueled by a desire for retaliation, after she had removed Jim and longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak from their decision-making roles in the Lakers’ basketball operations department in favor of elevating franchise legend Magic Johnson and new general manager Rob Pelinka, and which sister Janie Buss said she believed was motivated by Johnny and Jim wanting to “bust the trust so they can sell their [interests]” in the multibillion-dollar franchise — Jeanie then turned her attention to consolidating power and making sure nothing like this could happen again. On that score, it appears, she has succeeded. From Fenno:

“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 agreement means the probate court trial scheduled for May 15 to resolve the matter won’t happen.

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New trustee Janie Buss made her support for Jeanie crystal clear in a chat with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne earlier this month:

“I’m really, really proud of my sister for putting her business hat on,” says younger sister, Janie Buss. “I know how hard it was. My dad’s dying wish was to leave the Lakers to all of us, and that we would all get along. He would be sickened if he saw what was going on with my older brothers.” […]

“My vote is behind Jeanie. I’ve told her that. I’ve always had her back,” Janie says. “There was a reason why my dad chose Jeanie. She’s guided the ship the entire time.”

As such, whereas Jim and Johnny had allegedly looked to use their 2-1 majority in the trust to elect new directors and leaving Jeanie on the outside looking in, the math has now tilted the other way:





Now, the franchise can move forward in its efforts to rectify its yearslong on-court decline, with Jim Buss removed from a decision-making role. The takeaway: it sure seems like there was a very good reason why Dr. Buss set things up to ensure that the Lakers’ trustees “take all actions reasonably available to them” to make sure that Jeanie’s the one in charge.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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