Janie Buss, the younger sister of Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss, believes that her two older brothers are trying to bust the family trust so they can sell their interest in the franchise, which was recently valued at $3 billion by Forbes magazine.
"They're [Jim and Johnny] trying to bust the trust so they call their [interests]," Janie Buss said in an ESPN.com story from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne posted Wednesday. "And if they sell, that'll leave the rest of us in a minority."
On Feb. 24, three days after Jeanie Buss had fired her brother Jim Buss as the team's executive vice president of basketball operations, Johnny Buss sent a notice calling for a board meeting on March 7, with a proposal of two new directors, a one-time disbursal of $25 million to shareholders and salaries of $30,000 a month to non-shareholders who serve as directors.
The four names submitted for the Lakers' five-person board of directors were Johnny Buss, Jim Buss, Dan Beckerman (the CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, whose chairman, Phil Anschutz, controls two seats on the board) and a property investor named Romie Chaudhari.
None of those names included Jeanie Buss, or younger brother Joey Buss, who was currently on the Lakers board of directors. That meant Johnny was proposing two new board members -- Jim Buss and Chaudhari -- to replace Jeanie and Joey.
According to the team's corporate bylaws, the controlling owner must be elected from the board of directors. So if Jeanie wasn't a director theoretically, she couldn't be re-elected as controlling owner -- even though Dr. Buss' trust names her his successor in that role.
Lawyers for Jeanie Buss filed, and later withdrew, a request for a temporary restraining order to force her brothers to comply with the terms of the family trust, which installed Jeanie as the president and co-owner of the team. A preliminary hearing is set for May 15.
"I'm really, really proud of my sister for putting her business hat on," Janie Buss said. "I know how hard that 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 brothers."
The ESPN.com story, headlined "How did the Lakers get here? The inside story of the Buss drama," reports that Jeanie Buss decided to fire three senior members of the Lakers' front office -- including her brother -- in part because Magic Johnson was kept out of the loop on trade decisions.
Johnson was named the Lakers' president of basketball operations on Feb. 21, the same day Jeanie Buss fired Jim, general manager Mitch Kupchak and team PR director John Black. The story details several instances of Johnson being out of the loop, including once when the Lakers worked out center Larry Sanders and Johnson was not invited to watch.
It also details a meeting that Jim Buss had scheduled with Johnson and Kupchak for the Feb. 20, the day after the NBA All-Star Game. Jeanie Buss felt it was too late, because the NBA trade deadline was three days later and Johnson had not been part of trade discussions.
In one instance, Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac called Johnson to ask if the Lakers were interested in DeMarcus Cousins in a trade. Johnson, as a consultant, said to talk to Kupchak because Johnson was not empowered to answer that kind of question. Johnson, according to reports, was never part of discussions, despite being in New Orleans for the All-Star Game. Divac, negotiating with Jim Buss and Kupchak over the phone, then traded Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans after the Lakers balked at including Brandon Ingram in the deal.
Sources told Shelburne that Jeanie Buss had previously instructed Kupchak and her brother that she was to be consulted if they discussed trades involving any of the Lakers' three recent lottery picks.