The move by the Los Angeles Lakers to name Earvin “Magic” Johnson president of basketball operations might benefit both the team and Johnson’s extensive nonbasketball holdings.
The team’s president and co-owner, Jeanie Buss, tapped Johnson to replace her brother Jim Buss just as the team prepares to send its season-ticket renewal packages to fans. Those renewals have typically been sent out in April, before the current season ends. This fall will be the first season where the Lakers will have to compete for attendance against pro football’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.
The addition of Johnson to the Lakers’ front office could bring some excitement to what has been a lackluster franchise in recent years, helping to convince fans that the team is headed in a new direction after four disappointing seasons.
Johnson, whose playing career ended with the Lakers after the 1995-96 season, has taken on a variety of business ventures through Beverly Hills-based Magic Johnson Enterprises Inc., an investment company he founded in 1987. He remains chief executive of the firm, which has a stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers, EquiTrust Life Insurance Co., and TV network Aspire Channel. It also owns a number of restaurant franchises across the country.
In addition, Johnson is a minority owner of Los Angeles Football Club, a Major League Soccer franchise that will begin play next year. He once held a 4.5 percent stake in the Lakers, which he sold to Patrick Soon-Shiong in 2010.
While he might be stepping away from his privately held company’s day-to-day operations, his role with the Lakers could prove a benefit to those businesses.
“I see no downside for him, only upside,” said David Simon, president of the Los Angeles Sports Council, a nonprofit that supports spectator sports. “He seems to have confidence in the people running his businesses. I see the position injecting a new degree of visibility for him worldwide. His brands will get better with the team’s success.”
Johnson joining the front office of the Lakers, for whom he played for 12 seasons and part of a 13th and helped win five National Basketball Association championships in the 1980s, is part of a restructuring of the franchise. Jim Buss will remain a part-owner.
The Buss children inherited majority control of the Lakers after the death of their father, Dr. Jerry Buss, in 2013.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak was also relieved of his role, which he held since the 1994-95 season, with the arrival of Johnson. The Lakers appointed sports agent Rob Pelinka, chief executive of L.A.’s Landmark Sports Agency, as the new general manager. Pelinka is the agent of former Lakers star Kobe Bryant as well as Houston Rockets guard James Harden, among others, though he will have to step away from those duties in his new role.
– David Nusbaum, Omar Shamout, and Kat Speed
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.