How Did Jerry Buss Make His Money?

Jerry Buss was a renowned American businessman, investor, and philanthropist, best known for owning the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. His journey to wealth is a classic tale of entrepreneurship, savvy investments, and a deep understanding of the entertainment value in sports. In this article, we will explore the various avenues through which Jerry Buss amassed his fortune and became one of the most successful team owners in the history of American sports.

Estimated Net Worth:$600 million (at the time of his death in 2013)
Age:80 (at the time of his death)
Born:January 27, 1933
Country of Origin:United States
Source of Wealth:Real Estate, Sports Franchise Ownership

Early Life and Education

Jerry Buss was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and grew up in a family that struggled financially. Despite these challenges, Buss was determined to pursue higher education. He earned a scholarship to the University of Wyoming, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in just two and a half years. He later obtained a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Southern California (USC). His academic achievements laid the groundwork for his future business ventures.

Initial Forays into Business

After completing his education, Buss worked in the aerospace industry and as a professor. However, his entrepreneurial spirit soon led him to the world of real estate. He started with a small investment in a West Los Angeles apartment building, which he purchased with a partner. This initial foray into real estate would become the cornerstone of his wealth creation strategy.

Real Estate Success

Buss’s real estate portfolio grew as he acquired more properties throughout Southern California. He had a knack for identifying undervalued properties and turning them into profitable investments. His success in real estate allowed him to amass significant wealth, which he would later use to diversify his investments into sports and entertainment.

Acquisition of the Los Angeles Lakers

In 1979, Jerry Buss made a historic purchase that would forever change the landscape of professional sports. He bought the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, and The Forum arena for $67.5 million, which at the time was the largest transaction in sports history. The acquisition of the Lakers was particularly significant, as the team would become one of the most successful and valuable franchises in the NBA under his ownership.

Transforming the Lakers into Showtime

Buss was instrumental in transforming the Lakers into the “Showtime” era, characterized by fast-paced, entertaining basketball. He understood that sports were not just about competition but also about providing entertainment to fans. Under his leadership, the Lakers won ten NBA championships and became a global brand.

Innovations in Sports Management

Jerry Buss was a pioneer in sports management. He introduced several innovations that enhanced the fan experience and increased revenue for the team. These included creating a dance squad, the Laker Girls, and luxury suites at The Forum. He also secured lucrative broadcasting deals that capitalized on the team’s popularity.

Other Sports Ventures

Beyond the Lakers, Buss had interests in other sports ventures. He owned the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA and had a stake in the Los Angeles Lazers indoor soccer team. His involvement in these additional sports franchises helped diversify his portfolio and solidify his status as a sports mogul.

Philanthropy and Personal Life

Jerry Buss was also known for his philanthropic efforts. He contributed to various charitable organizations and was particularly passionate about education. He established the Jerry Buss Family Foundation, which supports a wide range of charitable causes. His personal life, marked by a love for poker and a close relationship with his children, also reflected his multifaceted personality.

Legacy and Impact on the NBA

Buss’s impact on the NBA and professional sports is immeasurable. He helped shape the modern NBA by emphasizing the importance of entertainment value and fan engagement. His legacy lives on through the continued success of the Lakers and the innovative practices he introduced to the sports industry.

Challenges and Controversies

Despite his success, Buss faced challenges and controversies throughout his career. He navigated complex business dealings, ownership disputes, and personal issues, all while maintaining his focus on building a winning and profitable sports franchise.

Passing the Torch

Before his death in 2013, Jerry Buss ensured that the future of the Lakers was secure by passing ownership to his children. His succession plan was designed to keep the team within the family and maintain the high standards he had set for the franchise.

Investment Philosophy

Buss’s investment philosophy was characterized by a willingness to take calculated risks and a deep understanding of market trends. He was not afraid to invest in unconventional opportunities if he believed they had the potential for high returns.

Real Estate Holdings

Even after purchasing the Lakers, Buss continued to invest in real estate. His holdings included residential and commercial properties, and he remained active in the real estate market throughout his life.

Media and Broadcasting

Recognizing the power of media, Buss was a trailblazer in leveraging broadcasting rights to increase revenue. He negotiated groundbreaking television deals that contributed significantly to his wealth and the financial success of his sports teams.

FAQ Section

  • How did Jerry Buss first get into real estate?
    Jerry Buss began his real estate career by investing in a West Los Angeles apartment building with a partner, using the money he had saved from his time in the aerospace industry and academia.
  • What was Jerry Buss’s net worth at the time of his death?
    At the time of his death in 2013, Jerry Buss’s estimated net worth was around $600 million.
  • Did Jerry Buss have any other business interests outside of sports?
    Yes, Jerry Buss had significant interests in real estate and was involved in various other business ventures throughout his career.
  • How many NBA championships did the Lakers win under Jerry Buss’s ownership?
    The Los Angeles Lakers won ten NBA championships under Jerry Buss’s ownership.
  • What was Jerry Buss’s educational background?
    Jerry Buss held a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming, a master’s degree, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Southern California (USC).


Jerry Buss’s journey to wealth is a testament to his entrepreneurial spirit, business acumen, and innovative approach to sports management. From his early days in real estate to his transformative ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers, Buss’s ability to combine entertainment with sports created a lasting legacy that reshaped the NBA. His investments in real estate and broadcasting further solidified his financial success, making him one of the most influential and successful team owners in sports history. Jerry Buss’s story is not just about wealth creation but also about the impact one individual can have on an entire industry.

The net worth figures and related information presented here are derived from a variety of public sources. These figures should not be regarded as definitive or fully accurate, as financial positions and valuations are subject to change over time.
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