There are certain franchises in every professional sports league that are household names, even in homes that don’t watch said sports. Everyone knows what city the Yankees, Patriots, Blackhawks, and Knicks play for because they are simply that famed. The Los Angeles Lakers, who have gone through five different ownership groups, are deservedly so on that list. The Lakers have the second most championships in NBA history and have been an integral part of the growth the league has seen since its creation. So who owns the Lakers now and how has ownership changed over the years?
Who Owns The Lakers?
1948-1957: Ben Berger
In 1947, Minneapolis businessman Ben Berger purchased the National Basketball Leagues Detroit Gems. He would relocate and rebrand the team as the Minneapolis Lakers. The early day Minneapolis Lakers can be heralded as the NBA’s first dynasty. They selected George Mikan with the 1st pick in the 1947 NBA draft. Mikan would be named a four time all-star, three time scoring champ, and help the Lakers win their first five championships. Despite the constant winning and having the best players in the league, attendance regularly fell short in Minnesota and Berger sold the team in 1957.
1957-1965: Bob Short
Bob Short would step in and purchase the Lakers in 1957. With Mikan retired, the Lakers were dealing with worsening attendance at games, and the Twin Cities didn’t seem to be a viable option for the Lakers to play in. Short then moved the team to Los Angeles, where they still play today. When the team moved to Los Angeles, winning ways ensued and attendance spiked. As a result of the new attendance numbers, Short sold the team in 1965. Bob Short had the shortest length of ownership with the Lakers having only owned the team for eight years. I think it’s safe to assume that Short was looking for a quick buck and knew moving the team would lead to increased revenue. When he was proven right, it was just about making a quick buck from selling the team again.
1965-1979: Jack Kent Cooke
Jack Cooke would step in and buy the team in 1965. Cooke was known for his fiery attitude and regular dismissal of his employees. He would purchase the Lakers for $5 million dollars ($43 million dollars current day). Cooke made a number of significant changes that helped the Lakers evolve into what they are today. First he changed their color scheme from blue and royal to the iconic purple and gold that the Lakers wear today. He also helped develop and build The Forum, the iconic home of the Showtime Lakers. After a very public and nasty divorce, Cooke was forced to sell the team in the largest divorce settlement in U.S. history. The settlement entitled $42 million ($157 million dollars current day) to Cookes ex-wife.
1979-2014: Jerry Buss
To pay for his divorce settlement Cooke was forced to sell the Lakers and did so to a former acquaintance, Jerry Buss. Buss first met Cooke when he was looking for a venue to have his tennis team play at when he was convinced to buy a skybox at the Forum. Buss and Cooke built a business friendship, and Buss was his go to when he sold the team. Other owners were hesitant about letting a real-estate tycoon like Buss into the league, but Cooke vouched for him and he was approved. The NBA would never be the same. Buss turned the Forum into the must-be venue for anyone who is anyone in Los Angeles. He implemented the ‘Lakers Girls’, a halftime dance spectacle that rivaled the ones in dark, smoky night clubs throughout L.A. More than making the Lakers the cool kids of professional basketball, Buss cared about winning. When he took ownership the Lakers were known as the lovable losers of the NBA, as they would constantly find themselves falling short to the Celtics in the finals. Under Jerry Buss however, the Lakers won 10 NBA championships. Jerry Buss was and still remains one of the most important owners in NBA history.
2014 - Present Day: Buss Family Trust
When Jerry Buss passed away in 2014, he was still a 66% majority owner of the Lakers. When he passed he passed that percentage down to his six children evenly at 11% per kid. Jeanie Buss assumed the title of Lakers Governor and would be the franchise's representative during the board of governors meetings. This means that at the end of the day, Jeanie Buss has all the muscle to make decisions on behalf of the franchise. Since 2014 the Lakers won a single NBA championship in 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. After a disappointing season in 2021-22, there is no clear sign what direction the Lakers will decide to go in.