The Future is Female

Jeanie-Buss-1Don’t worry LakHer fans, this is not a political blog post. Instead, I will be covering something much less tumultuous: the legal battle between the Buss siblings. This week ESPN dropped an article detailing the drama around the Lakers’ ownership. Before you read any further, I highly recommend you go and read this article.

Last month it appeared that Jimmy retaliated against his firing by trying and stage a coup with his brother Johnny. In the moment, I was completely terrified. I was still celebrating Jeanie firing his ass, and then it appeared he was going to throw her out and take over control of the Lakers. I was not OK with that. In my darkest hour I was telling people that I would no longer be a Lakers fan if Jimmy won. I was prepared to shut down the blog and stop watching Lakers basketball. It was a dark time.

Ultimately, Jeanie emerged victorious. She maintained control and got Jimmy to resign from the board of trustees and replaced him with her ally. I sat there trying to figure out what the hell just happened. I read articles trying to dissect this trust, but most of these articles were focused on the sibling infighting. I didn’t care how much Jeanie and Jimmy hated each other. I cared about the legal issues/consequences of this fight. My interests were in the future of Lakers basketball and management. After the ESPN article came out, I consulted with my brother and official LakHer Blog legal correspondent, AW. He provided enough context that I think I now understand what happened, and hopefully can explain it to all of you.

Legal Battle Breakdown

Let’s first discuss the main issue at the heart of this legal battle: the trust (OK, so it turns out it isn’t a single trust but four nearly identical trusts which work together to form a sort of mega-trust, but for ease of reference I am going to refer to the four trusts in the post as a single trust). The organizational documents of the trust are not public, so all information previously known about the trust has been hearsay. Thanks to this drama, we now know a little bit more about how the Buss trust is set up, because certain information about the trust was included in certain publicly filed documents. According to Janie Buss, Dr. Buss set up the trust for his 6 children to go to the “last man standing.” Essentially, all 6 kids split the 66% of the Lakers, but as each child dies off, the rest of the siblings absorb the remaining share. Eventually there will be 1 child remaining and they will have all 66% of the Lakers ownership owned by the trust. This means that, at least theoretically, the trust immensely benefits the youngest child Joey, but is detrimental to the older siblings (Johnny and Jimmy).

When I first heard about this set up, I immediately thought of the princes in the movie Stardust. Just like in the movie, I believe this set up incentivizes siblings to murder each other.

 

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The future for the Buss siblings. (Screen grab from the movie Stardust)

There are a lot of pros and cons for setting up a trust like this, and I will focus on the impact for the Lakers later on in this blog. For now, let’s discuss why Jimmy and Johnny “tried” to overthrow Jeanie.

While the trust has 6 beneficiaries (all the Buss children) it has 3 trustees (Jeanie, Jimmy and Johnny), who actually administer and run the trust. Here is where things get a little soap opera like. According to various sources cited in the ESPN article linked to above, Jimmy and Johnny wanted Jeanie to agree to amend the trust. In particular, it is thought that they wanted to be able to access more cash from the trust than they are currently entitled to – Johnny so he could have a larger legacy for his children and Jimmy so he could pay for his expensive real-estate habit. We know it is possible for the trust to be amended if all three trustees agree to amend it, because the trust has been amended using this procedure several times already. However, it appears that Jeanie didn’t agree to these amendments. So, Jimmy and Johnny aggressively played a weak hand. While the trust requires the consensus of all 3 trustees to amend it, it only requires a majority to take most other actions. So Jimmy and Johnny used their combined majority vote to do something that most experts (and now a judge) agree is forbidden by the terms of the trust – they removed Jeanie from the board of directors of the Lakers, which would have prevented her from acting as the “controlling owner” of the Lakers. This was a calculated move, and it left Jeanie with 2 choices:

  1. Negotiate with her siblings and agree to some form of restructuring of the trust; or
  2. Take them to court and air the family dirty laundry

Jeanie took the badass approach and went with option number 2. She filed an action in court to prevent her brothers from removing her from the board of directors, and the judge quickly agreed and ordered the brothers to comply. She then went one step further, flexing her muscles and had her lawyer threaten to look into Jimmy’s finances. He is (allegedly) broke, and being “financially insolvent” can get you removed from the board of trustees. It worked. He resigned from the board, and she replaced him with her ally Janey. It was a boss move.

Future of the Lakers

After AW explained all of this to me, my first question was this: does that mean this is all over? The answer is a bit complicated.

In the short term, this fight is over. Janie is “Team Jeanie” so Johnny is outnumbered in staging any sort of coup. He needs either Janie or Jeanie to help him do anything. This appears to be unlikely. This means for the next 30-40 years (knock wood), the team will remain in Jeanie’s control. The issue now comes back to that “last man standing” trust. I told you we would be coming back to it.

Eventually Jeanie will die, (either of natural causes or murderous rage from a disgruntled sibling) and the shares will go to the last Buss standing. In all likelihood, that will be Joey. This means that unless Jeanie and her siblings restructure the trust in the future, the Lakers will be in the hands of Joey, and then his children. That scares me a bit. I do not want another incompetent Buss running my beloved Lakers. Jeanie has proven to be a badass and to put the team before her personal relationships. I am willing to role with her for a bit to see what she can do with this new team. I have less faith in Joey and his children.

This revelation terrified me, so I went back and read my very first blog post from 3 ½ years ago. I wrote that blog to give my brother hope for the Lakers. I discussed why I was hopeful for the future despite all the issues they were facing. I was pretty spot on with a lot of the issues. However, I got one thing very wrong: the Jimmy and Jeanie duo. I talked about putting family first and having a united front. I also called Jeanie a “glorified groupie.” I would like to take this moment to apologize to Jeanie for that comment. Her actions took some steal ovaries, and I am impressed. She put this organization before her relationship with her brother, and that is something I will not forget. Her brother definitely deserves what he got, but I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to go to war with him like that. Now that Jeanie has cleaned house and put in a new team, I think she will do great. I believe she will ensure the future of the Lakers and not make the mistake of allowing this team to fall into the wrong hands again (despite her father’s wishes). I can honestly say, I am more hopeful than ever.

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LakHer Blog: Thanksgiving Edition

Happy-ThanksgivingHello LakHer fans! I know that I have been radio silent for a while (sorry Zjelko), but I have a good reason for it. As you all know I try not to post negative blogs. I will give constructive criticism, but I will never just rant. I always try to offer a solution. However, I am not going to lie, things are pretty bad in Lakerland. Honestly, there is not much I can say to lift your spirits or suggestions I can give to improve our team. Our current roster is terrible. I was hopeful that Julius Randle would be a bright spot this year, but since he injured himself in the first game, we need to move on for the time being. Barring some big trade (which seems unlikely since all the owners around the league seem to have made their own agreement not give the Lakers any valuable players and since we have nothing to give in return) we are screwed.

Now, I hate making blanket statements like that, particularly ones that are so negative, so I will offer the one spot in which the Lakers can and must improve: defense. The Lakers have the worst defense in the league. They gave up 140 points to Dallas the other night; that is just pathetic. I can accept the fact that the Lakers have a less talented team. I can accept the fact that besides Kobe Bryant and Nick Young, the Lakers are going to struggle to score. However, I cannot accept poor defense. Defense does not require a lot of skill; it is all about effort. Anderson Varejao is a mediocre player at best, but he has stuck around in the league because he will harass any player he is told to defend. He makes simple plays difficult, and that’s the point of defense.

Byron Scott promised us premiere defense when he became our coach. He knew that fans like me were sick of the D’Antoni-no-defense style. However, we have yet to see him deliver on his promise. I will go easy on him, since the Lakers put together almost an entirely new group of people, and chemistry does take time (just ask the Cavs), but I do expect some major improvements on the defensive end. I am a bit of a stat junkie. I can spend hours on ESPN’s stat page going over every single detail. So I decided to give my loyal readers a little taste of the good stuff. I wanted to analyze this defensive problem that the Lakers are having. First, I want to rule out D’Antoni’s fear that we aren’t scoring enough. The Lakers are doing fine on the offensive end, as they are currently ranked at #12 averaging 101.4 points per game. Turnovers are also not the issue since the Lakers are only giving up 12.2 per game making them 6th best in the league. Now that we have ruled out offense as the issue (see D’Antoni), I will move on to the defense. The Lakers are simply giving up too many easy shots. Teams are averaging 110.8 points per game against us, making us the worst defense in the league. Additionally, the teams are scoring efficiently. Teams are shooting 48.9% from the field and 39.3% from 3-point land. Those numbers are unacceptable.

On a happier note, since we are in the Holiday season, and we are supposed to be saying what we are thankful for, I will point out the few bright spots of the season. This way we can at least get through the dog days without crying (too much).

Kobe Bryant and the ESPN #40 ranking

I have two words for ESPN, “Thank you.” Kobe uses lots of things to motivate him, but people doubting him comes in pretty high on the list. Honestly, it is probably right under winning championships.

He is a little less explosive but his footwork and moves are still there. Right now he is the scoring leader averaging 26.4 points per game. I do not think that is sustainable, but he is making a point. I believe that he will end up averaging about 20 points a game this year. I believe this for a few reasons. First, he will want to show ESPN that they were wrong and he is still relevant. Second, this Lakers team doesn’t have a lot of scoring weapons so he will need to score out of necessity, but with Scott admitting that Kobe’s minutes will go down (because now they are way too high at 35.2 per game making him sixth highest in the league) he will have less time to score. Lastly, and most importantly he will need to average 20 points a game in order to pass Michael Jordan on the All Time Scoring List in December. I think that spot on the list means more to Kobe than any other record. He has always been compared to Jordan and taking that spot from him will help his case. Kobe will probably not be able to acquire that sixth ring, but he can take Jordan’s scoring spot away from him.

Nick Young

Hallelujah! Swaggy P is back and healthy! Upon Nick’s return, the Lakers won their first 2 games in a row. It was a holiday miracle! He is the type of player that we need to get through this really tough season. We are going to lose a lot of games, but he is going to make some crazy shots that end up on ESPN’s top 10 plays. Before he was in the lineup, these games were depressing. The last couple of games have not been his best, but he is getting his swagger back, and I am excited to see him get back to his best form. I always speak highly of Nick because he is everything you want in a sixth man: burst of energy, loves his position, and an instant game changer. Sure, I make fun of his hair, and some the stupid decisions he makes, but overall I think he is wonderful and I am so happy we have him.

Jordan Hill

I remember being very skeptical when the Lakers gave Jordan such a massive contract in the off season, but so far he has proved his worth. He has been our only defensive anchor on a very crappy defensive team. He has had 8 double doubles this year while averaging about 10 rebounds per game. No matter how badly the rest of the team is playing, he is always putting in the effort.

Last night’s first half against Memphis

I was so impressed watching the first half against Memphis. The Lakers were moving the ball, and playing great defense. Ronnie Price made some amazing plays. The whole Lakers team was playing together, and Kobe was able to rest and take very few shots. Everyone stepped up and it was impressive to watch us beating one of the best teams in the Western Conference. If the Lakers could sustain that effort and chemistry through an entire game, then they would actually be a bit dangerous, however we have yet to really see that happen. Since I am saying what I am thankful for, I will not go into what happened in the second half, needless to say there is a reason why I am not thankful for it.

Steve Nash is no longer a distraction (sort of)

Besides angering fans by playing golf, Steve Nash is out of sight and out of mind. It was announced earlier this season that he was officially done for the season. He said he was going to take his $9.7 million, because he would be an idiot not to. While it wasn’t the classiest move, I don’t necessarily disagree with him. It is hard to walk away from that much money, no matter how much you are worth. Additionally, this man has no loyalty to the Lakers, if anything, he has more reason than most to want to screw us over since we thwarted any chance of him ever getting a ring for a decade. When the announcement came that he was officially done, all I wanted to do was yell and scream, “I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!” Don’t worry fans, I will be adding the announcement to that blog as well.

The other night my parents were complaining that Nash wasn’t sitting on the bench. My mom asked, “Shouldn’t all injured players be in their suits on the bench? Where is he?” to which my dad replied, “Playing golf.” In theory, Nash should be sitting his ass on the bench watching every single home game. In reality, it is better to keep him far away. Fans hate him, and seeing his face only reminds them of the failed “big 3.”  When we are over the hate, we should have him return to the bench where he can assist. Luke Walton did the same thing whenever he had a back injury and it was very helpful. Jeremy Lin could really use some guidance from the future Hall of Fame point guard. Every time I watch Lin handle the ball I can feel him over thinking it. In the first half last night, he was back in Linsanity form, but in the second half (when everything else for the Lakers fell apart) he kept turning the ball over because he kept over thinking. Maybe Nash can help him learn how to read and react as opposed to getting stuck in the plays. If Nash could help resurrect Linsanity then Lakers fans would get over the amount of money we have paid Nash to sit on the bench (or at home).