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Magic Johnson sells his ownership stake in the Lakers

Biotech investor Patrick Soon-Shiong, the nation's 46th-richest individual according to Forbes magazine, buys Johnson's 4.5% share of the franchise. The Lakers great, rumored to have interest in buying another NBA team, will retain his vice president's title with Lakers.

October 18, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

No. 46 just bought out the Lakers' No. 32.

Magic Johnson will forever be connected with the Lakers, but he can't be called part-owner of the team any longer.

Johnson sold his 4.5% ownership stake in the franchise to billionaire season-ticket holder Patrick Soon-Shiong, the team said Monday.

Johnson, 51, has become wealthy from his business ventures since retiring from basketball, including commercial real estate, health clubs and restaurants.

But Johnson, who wore No. 32 on the way to becoming a Hall of Fame guard for the Lakers, is a relative pauper compared with Soon-Shiong, a surgeon and biotech investor ranked No. 46 among the nation's wealthiest people by Forbes magazine this year. His estimated worth is $5.6 billion.

Soon-Shiong, 58, said in a statement that it was "an honor to be part of the Lakers family and the nation's foremost basketball franchise."

Based on various valuations the Lakers are worth about $600 million, and Johnson's stake had an estimated value of $27 million, though exact terms of his sale were not disclosed.

"It was a very smart business decision on Earvin's part [to sell]," said Lon Rosen, Johnson's longtime agent.

The sale amount was "a lot more" than $27 million, said a team source who was not authorized to speak publicly. "[Magic] was made an offer that he couldn't refuse."

Various sources close to Johnson also quickly quelled any connection between selling his share of the Lakers and aggressively pursuing ownership of another NBA team. In the last year, Johnson has been rumored to be interested in buying the Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons. The Warriors were subsequently sold this year for $450 million.

In the Phil Jackson era, Johnson's role has been relatively minor in terms of the day-to-day workings of the Lakers franchise. But Johnson will keep his title of vice president and continue to consult with General Manager Mitch Kupchak as needed.

"I don't think anything's going to change," Kupchak said. "He's been very valuable to me."

A leading player on five Lakers championship teams in the 1980s, Johnson purchased his share of the franchise for a reported $10 million in June 1994.

Johnson said the choice to sell was made after "heavy deliberation" and with a "weighing heart."

"This was a bittersweet business decision made on behalf of my family and myself, and I want to assure all the wonderful and loyal Lakers fans that my decision will in no way affect my dedication and support for the Los Angeles Lakers," Johnson said in a statement. "I am and will always be a Laker for life."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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