Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lakers' owner rewrote book on sports finance

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LOS ANGELES -- Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers' playboy owner who shepherded the NBA team to 10 championships from the Showtime dynasty of the 1980s to the Kobe Bryant era, died Monday. He was 80.

He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Bob Steiner, his assistant.

Buss had been in hospital for most of the past 18 months while undergoing cancer treatment, but the immediate cause of death was kidney failure, Steiner said. With his condition worsening in recent weeks, several prominent former Lakers visited Buss to say goodbye.

"The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend."

Under Buss's leadership since 1979, the Lakers became Southern California's most beloved sports franchise and a worldwide extension of Hollywood glamour. Buss acquired, nurtured and befriended a staggering array of talented players and basketball minds during his Hall of Fame tenure, from Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.

Always an innovative businessman, Buss paid for the Lakers through both their wild success and his own ground-breaking moves to raise revenue. He co-founded a basic-cable sports television network and sold the naming rights to the Forum at times when both now-standard strategies were unusual, further justifying his induction to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Buss earned a PhD in chemistry at age 24 and had careers in aerospace and real estate before getting into sports. With money from his real-estate ventures and a good bit of creative accounting, Buss bought the Lakers, the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and both clubs' arena -- the Forum -- from Canadian Jack Kent Cooke in a $67.5-million deal that was the largest sports transaction in history at the time.

Last month, Forbes estimated the Lakers were worth $1 billion.

Buss is survived by six children: sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse, and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel. He had eight grandchildren.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2013 C13

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