Upon his passing, Dr. Buss left the team to his children through a family trust, administered by his three oldest children—Johnny, Jim and Jeanie.
All six of his children have been involved in the family business over the years, with Jim and Jeanie figuring most prominently into day-to-day Lakers operations—Jim with basketball decisions and Jeanie heading up the business side.
Here then are the six Buss children in chronological order—the first four from Jerry’s marriage to JoAnn and two from his relationship with Karen Demel.
The eldest of the Buss children, Johnny, was the President of the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks for 10 seasons before his father sold the team for a reported $10 million in 2006. Earlier this month, the Sparks were sold once again, this time to an investment group led by Magic Johnson.
As for the oldest Buss son, Johnny isn’t actively involved in basketball operations, concentrating efforts on ancillary ventures as the team’s vice president of strategic development.
Jim Buss didn’t set out to run the Lakers, but that’s where he finds himself these days.
He tried his hand at various ventures, including running the Los Angeles Lazars, an indoor soccer team owned by his father, and training race horses, also owned by his father. He eventually moved into basketball, however, becoming the assistant to general manager Mitch Kupchak.
After years of observing, learning and taking on increased responsibility, Jim serves as the team’s executive vice president of player personnel, and is coming to grips with life after the passing of his father, and having the ultimate say in Lakers basketball decisions.
Per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles:
I'm looked upon as that decision-maker even though it's a team effort. I think people want to have that. They want the new decision-making process to be out in the forefront as opposed to keeping the legacy of Dr. Buss in the forefront.
Jeanie Buss has been involved in the sports business from a young age, appointed as general manager of the Los Angeles Strings tennis team by her father the age of 19 while still attending USC.
She later became owner of the team and subsequently owned and operated the Los Angeles Blades roller hockey team. Since 1995, she has served on the NBA Board of Governors.
While Jim heads up the basketball side, Jeanie has been the executive vice president of business operations since 1999, running point on team marketing, sponsorships and strategic new interests such as their $3.6 billion deal with Time Warner Cable.
Jeanie has also been dating former Lakers coach Phil Jackson since 1999—the two announced their engagement over the Christmas holidays in 2012.
In a Los Angeles Times Magazine article by John Ireland, Jerry Buss described his daughter’s determination:
"She's driven and willing to accept any challenge. She is always there—and if it has to be until midnight, seven days a week, she'll do it."
The youngest of Jerry and JoAnn’s children, Janie Buss Drexel graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1993 and later worked for the Lakers in their community relations office.
Married and the mother of two, Janie now serves as in the Lakers' director of charitable services and also runs the Lakers Youth Foundation.
As her father said (per the above-mentioned Times article), "She's probably the most compassionate of all of my children. Charity is really her calling. As a mother, it's a great fit."
Joey Buss also got a taste for the family business at a young age, hanging around the Lakers' offices, shadowing Phil Jackson for a year, learning the ins and outs of scouting and finally taking over the reins of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the first D-League team to be owned by an NBA team.
Now the President and CEO of the Lakers’ affiliate minor league team, Buss has built it into both a financial asset and an important developer and provider of basketball talent. In 2012, he spoke with the Kamenetzy brothers for ESPN Los Angeles, describing the way in which he was handed the opportunity by his father:
“He’s always about the sink or swim type. Just go out there and do it. Don’t ask me about anything. This is kind of like a test.”
The youngest of the Buss children, Jesse began working for the Lakers organization as a basketball operations assistant while still in his teens, and is now the Lakers’ scouting coordinator, as well as the D-Fenders' director of scouting.
When his older brother Jim was working in scouting, Jesse would accompany him on tips. Now, Jesse himself is on the road as much as 100 days a year.
Speaking with Alex Lambeth and Jory Dreher for Lakers Nation, Jesse spoke about the relationship he had with his father.
"He just understood all aspects of life—whether it was talking about a movie we had just seen, the latest hip-hop song that came out, basketball, or anything personal. It is definitely a huge void in my life not having him here; I really miss talking to him."
It has been a year now since the passing of an icon. The Buss siblings are moving ahead, learning by doing and still learning to cope with the loss of their father.