Jerry Buss, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Lakers who turned the NBA multi-title winning franchise into ‘Hollywood’s team’ has died this morning of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. He was 80. His death occurred soon after he made a hugely lucrative deal $4 billion/20-year deal to showcase the Lakers on their own Time Warner Cable channel even though it meant rates would rise for cable subscribers. The former chemistry professor bought the team and other assets (The Forum, the Los Angeles Kings, and a 13,000 acre ranch) in 1979 for $67.5 million in what was then the largest sports deal in history. That was also the same year he purchased Pickfair in Beverly Hills, cementing his status as a Hollywood player. Then he spent freely for star players en route to 10 NBA championships to the delight of faithful fans like Hollywood moguls, agents, and Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon. Courtside seats remain coveted throughout the entertainment biz. Over the years, Buss helped pay for this through naming rights and launching the Prime Ticket network and now the Lakers’ own TWC channel to show games on basic cable. This year, although struggling on the court, the team has a $100 million payroll — the league’s highest along with the most expensive ticket prices — and faces luxury-tax penalties of another $30 million. The franchise is now worth $1 billion, according to estimates. Buss, a regular sight at The Forum and Staples Center, had been ill for a long time and not attended a game all this season. Reports said Lakers stars like Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently visited the team owner to pay their respects.
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