Dr. Gerald Hatten Buss
Dr. Gerald Hatten Buss (born 15 June 1934 in Salt Lake City, Utah) is the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team along with other professional sports franchises in southern California.
Buss worked his way through the University of Wyoming, graduating with a B.S. degree in two and a half years in 1953. He moved to Los Angeles, California and attended the University of Southern California, where he earned a M.S. and Ph.D. in physical chemistry by age 24.
Buss started as a chemist for the Bureau of Mines (now the Mine Safety and Health Administration); he then briefly worked in the aerospace industry and was on the faculty of USC’s chemistry department. He originally went into real estate in order to provide an income so he could continue teaching. His first investment in the 1960s was $1,000 in a West Los Angeles apartment building. Finding great success, he pursued real estate full time.
Buss became an owner in World Team Tennis. He purchased the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA along with the Los Angeles Kings hockey team of the NHL, The Forum, and a large ranch from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979. The purchase price, $67.5 million, made it the largest transaction in sports history at that time. Buss later sold the Kings, retaining ownership of the Lakers and The Forum. He then reached a major advertising agreement with Great Western Bank for the naming rights to The Forum, resulting in the official name of the building being changed to the Great Western Forum.
Later, when the WNBA was formed, Buss took charge of operating that league’s Los Angeles franchise, the Los Angeles Sparks. Eventually, all three teams moved into a more modern arena in downtown Los Angeles: Staples Center, which opened in 1999. As part of the deal to move the Lakers into Staples Center, Buss sold the Great Western Forum (which was later reverted to its original name).
The Lakers have been very successful under Buss’ ownership, winning nine NBA championships with such players as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant. The Sparks also experienced their share of success with Buss at the helm, winning two WNBA championships.
In 2002, when the WNBA was restructured to give its teams individual owners, Buss assumed outright ownership of the Sparks. He sold the team in 2006. Buss also owned the Los Angeles Lazers of the Major Indoor Soccer League. The Lazers also played in The Forum. The team folded in 1989 and the league folded three years later.
In 2009, the Lakers won their fifteenth NBA world championship, defeating the Orlando Magic in five games.
Buss has been a high-stakes cash game poker player for many years, but recently he has been more active in tournament games. His best finishes include 3rd in the 1991 World Series of Poker seven-card stud event and 2nd place in the 2003 World Poker Tour Freeroll invitational. He has appeared in the GSN series High Stakes Poker and the NBC late-night series Poker After Dark. He is good friends with Professional Poker Player Parimal Parmar.
On May 29, 2007, Buss was issued a DUI citation after two California Highway Patrol officers saw him driving his gold Mercedes-Benz with a 23 year-old woman on the wrong side of the road in the coastal community of Carlsbad in northern San Diego County. After failing a field sobriety test, Buss was taken into custody, given a blood test and booked on suspicion of driving while intoxicated with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08.
In January 2008, Buss donated $7.5 million to USC’s Department of Chemistry to fund two endowed chairs and an endowed scholarship fund for chemistry graduate students; the two chairs were to be named after his mentors at USC, professors Sidney Benson and David Dows. Buss is an inaugural member of the USC College Board of Councilors.