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Sparks' sale to investors nearly done

Sources say a group led by two L.A. lawyers is buying the team from Buss for $10 million.

December 06, 2006|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

An investor group led by Los Angeles lawyers Katherine Goodman and Carla Christofferson is buying the Sparks from Lakers owner Jerry Buss for $10 million, sources confirmed Tuesday night.

The NBA Board of Governors was expected to vote today to approve the sale of the two-time WNBA champions, sources said.

The Sparks have scheduled a Thursday news conference.

Six weeks ago, Sparks President Johnny Buss announced that he was stepping down after overseeing the team's operations for eight seasons, adding that there was a possibility that the team would be put up for sale.

On Tuesday, Buss family spokesman Bob Steiner said, "We can't confirm who the new owners are, other than to say they are local and have the same passion and love of the team and faith in its future that ... Johnny Buss and the Buss family have."

Steiner said the sale "could be finalized this week."

He declined to name the buyers. The WNBA declined to comment.

It was assumed that the Sparks, built around three-time WNBA most valuable player Lisa Leslie, would continue playing in Staples Center.

Christofferson, 39, is a partner at O'Melveny & Myers and has represented Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys, among others. She was Miss North Dakota in 1989.

Goodman, formerly a partner at Katten, Muchen & Zavis and West Coast president of Intermedia Films, no longer practices law and is a high school teacher in the San Fernando Valley, according to womenshoops.blogspot.com.

Asked why the Lakers wanted to sell their sister team, Steiner said in a phone interview, reading from a statement, "After 10 years of a demanding effort to pioneer women's professional basketball in Los Angeles, team President Johnny Buss decided that he needed to step down.

"Rather than retain ownership and have the operations of the team in non-family hands, it was decided that a sale to new and avid owners would be in the best interests of the team."

Johnny Buss, whose father has owned the Lakers since 1979, told The Times in October that he approached his younger siblings about taking over leadership of the Sparks. Sister Janie Buss expressed interest, he said, but ultimately declined because of family commitments. She has two children.

Janie, Jeanie and Jim Buss all work for the Lakers.

The Sparks, founded in 1997, struggled early on but developed into a consistent on-court success under Johnny Buss, who took control of the team in 1999. They won WNBA titles in 2001 and 2002, reached the league finals again in 2003 and five times posted the Western Conference's best regular-season record.

In 10 seasons, they've won nearly 68% of their games. They were 25-9 last season, reaching the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year before losing in the Western Conference finals to the Sacramento Monarchs.

WNBA President Donna Orender in October called Johnny Buss "an inspiring leader" and described L.A. as "a fantastic WNBA market."

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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