Lakers learn difficulties of family business
by Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY Sports
In world history, heirs to thrones and transitions of power have yielded mixed results. In the world of sports, the same applies. And now the Los Angeles Lakers look to a future without owner Jerry Buss, who died Monday at 80.
Ten of the Lakers’ 16 NBA championships were won after Buss took over as owner in 1979. His son Jim, the Lakers’ executive vice president of player personnel, has been running the basketball side since 2011. His daughter Jeanie has overseen the business end. The Lakers says that operational model will continue.
But the tale of another former Lakers owner, Jack Kent Cooke, illustrates what can happen when a thriving franchise loses its leader.
Buss bought the Lakers, Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League and Los Angeles Forum from Cooke in 1979 for $67 million.
Cooke turned his attention to his remaining pro franchise, the Washington Redskins of the NFL. They won Super Bowl titles in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons. Cooke let coach Joe Gibbs and general managers Bobby Beathard and Charley Casserly run the show.
When Cookie died in 1997, he left the franchise to his foundation with a stipulation that it be sold. His son, John Kent Cooke, made an unsuccessful attempt to keep the team, with it going to local businessman Daniel Snyder. The Redskins have not been back to the Super Bowl since the Snyder era began in 1999. They won the NFC East last season, but it was just their fourth winning season under Snyder.
“It depends to a great degree on the succession plan,” says Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports consultant who had advised many pro franchises. “But even when there’s a well-thought out succession plan, problems often come up with family-owned franchises with multiple offspring involved.”
During George Steinbrenner’s 37-year run as owner of baseball’s New York Yankees, the team won seven World Series titles. He was flamboyant, eager to spend on stars players and the ultimate hands-on owner. Steinbrenner died in 2010. His sons Hank and Hal Steinbrenner have been running the team since 2007. The Yankees delivered their most recently World … [For more on Lakers about to learn difficulties of family business, click here.]