The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

February 19, 2013

Jerry Buss, Lakers' flamboyant owner, dies at 80

(Continued)

"Today is a very sad day for all the Lakers and basketball," Gasol tweeted. "All my support and condolences to the Buss family. Rest in peace Dr. Buss."

Although Buss gained fame and another fortune with the Lakers, he also was a scholar, Renaissance man and bon vivant who epitomized California cool his entire public life.

Buss rarely appeared in public without at least one attractive, much younger woman on his arm — at Southern California football games, high-stakes poker tournaments, hundreds of boxing matches promoted by Buss at the Forum — and, of course, Lakers games from his private box at Staples Center, which was built under his watch. With his failing health, Buss hadn't attended a Lakers game in the past two seasons.

After a rough-and-tumble childhood that included stints as a ditch-digger and a bellhop in the frigid Wyoming winters, Buss earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from USC at 24, and had careers in aerospace and real estate development before getting into sports.

With money from his real-estate ventures and a good bit of creative accounting, Buss bought the then-struggling Lakers, the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and both clubs' arena — the Forum — from 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, second most in the NBA.

Buss also helped change televised sports by co-founding the Prime Ticket network in 1985, and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 for his work in television. Breaking the contemporary model of subscription services for televised sports, Buss' Prime Ticket put beloved broadcaster Chick Hearn and the Lakers' home games on basic cable.

Buss also sold the naming rights to the Forum in 1988 to Great Western Savings & Loan — another deal that was ahead of its time.

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