Americas Bulletin: Buss family blues; Raiders bank new stadium financing; F1 on track in Montreal

SportsPro’s Americas Bulletin, dishing up a regular diet of news, views and insight from across the business of sport in the Western Hemisphere.

Americas Bulletin: Buss family blues; Raiders bank new stadium financing; F1 on track in Montreal

Call it a soap opera, call it a Shakespearean comedy: the sibling rivalry that has come to characterise the squabbling Buss family is now all anybody cares to mention when they talk about the Los Angeles Lakers. Since long-time owner Jerry Buss passed away in 2013, bickering and in-fighting between his six children has turned the once-dominant National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise into something of a laughing stock, not to mention one of the worst teams in the league.

This week, the saga continued as brothers Jim and Johnny attempted to oust their younger sister Jeanie from her seat as the team’s controlling owner. Angered that Jeanie, Jerry’s personal pick to run the Lakers business, removed Jim as executive vice president of basketball operations last month, replacing him with her good friend and basketball legend Magic Johnson (below), the two brothers reportedly plotted a coup at an emergency shareholder meeting called for Tuesday, a move that would have seen Jeanie ejected from the Lakers five-person board of directors and effectively nullified her position as the team’s ultimate authority.

In response, Jeanie sought to prevent the meeting by requesting a temporary restraining order in a Los Angeles Superior Court last week, with her attorney, Adam Streisand, claiming that her brothers “don’t have a legal leg to stand on.” Jeanie even used the court filing to take a personal pop at Jim, whom she said has “already proven to be completely unfit” to run the Lakers’ basketball operations. Yet the meeting never came to fruition, with Jim and Johnny signing a document late on Thursday in which they expressed their intent to re-elect Jeanie as controlling owner.

That averted the controversial coup for now, but don’t expect that to be the end of the family feud. A court hearing has been set for May in which Jeanie’s lawyer will seek to prevent any future attempts by Jim and Johnny to seize control of the Lakers or dissolve the Buss family trust, which owns 66 per cent of the team and is split equally between the six siblings. All the while the 16-time NBA champions have a dismal 19-44 record on the court and are rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference. 

In football, Bank of America has been revealed as the new financial backer for the Oakland Raiders’ proposed US$1.9 billion stadium in Las Vegas. The want-away National Football League (NFL) franchise’s intended move to Southern Nevada had been in doubt after casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and Goldman Sachs both withdrew their pledge to inject US$650 million into the stadium project. Raiders owner Mark Davis and team president Marc Badain reportedly informed the NFL’s stadium and finance committees of the new financing this week, keeping them on track for relocation ahead of an expected vote by league owners at their meeting in Phoenix later this month.

Further north, Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will continue to stage the Canadian Grand Prix until at least 2029 after securing a new hosting contract with Formula One’s new bosses Liberty Media. Race promoter François Dumontier confirmed the deal last week, allaying concerns that the Montreal circuit, which hosted its first Grand Prix in 1978, would be removed from the F1 calendar after failing to upgrade its pit facilities prior to this year’s event in June. Montreal city authorities have, however, committed to modifying the circuit’s garage building as part of the renewal.

As if the sports calendar were not already crowded enough, discussions are said to be taking place over the creation of a new Ryder Cup-style multi-sport event between the US and Great Britain. Inside The Games reports that British Olympic Association (BOA) chief Bill Sweeney will travel to New York for talks with United States Olympic Committee (USOC) bosses at the end of the month. Though a possible 2019 launch has been mooted, it is unclear which sports would be included.

"A number of our sports have said they are interested in doing it and the concept is based around a home and away series, every two years, as we see in the world of golf," said Sweeney (left). "That will give us another opportunity to generate additional revenue that we can pump back into the system. So I would say it’s a very live conversation but like most things, when you try to set them up, there are lots of negotiations that need to happen.”

Sweeney may well have more to say on the matter when he speaks at SportsPro Live at Wembley Stadium on 29th and 30th March.

Elsewhere, the California-based World Surf League (WSL) is facing up to the loss of two key protagonists in its renaissance under ownership company ZoSea Media. With chief executive Paul Speaker having announced his departure in January, the series has now been hit with the news that Samsung will not renew its title sponsorship of the WSL’s elite Championship Tour after just three years in the role. On the plus side, the WSL has struck a one-year deal to show all of its 2017 events on Facebook Live for the first time this year.

In other news, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been named as an anchor tenant of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, joining the newly created National Hockey League (NHL) franchise, the Golden Knights. Under the agreement, announced last Friday on the eve of UFC 209, a minimum of four UFC events will be held at T-Mobile Arena annually, while the MMA promotion will have a year-round branding presence and retail space at the venue. 

Also this week: Jeff Plush tendered his resignation as National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) commissioner, bringing to an end his two-year tenure; Heineken’s Amstel brand was announced as a sponsor of the Copa Libertadores in the first deal confirmed since IMG became the exclusive marketing partner for South American soccer authority Conmebol’s elite club competition last month; and Sinclair Broadcast Group bolstered its tennis assets, acquiring Tennis magazine and tennis.com for an initial US$8 million with plans to combine both Tennis Media Company-owned properties with Tennis Channel, the cable network the group bought last year.