The identity of the buyer couldn’t be ascertained. The people were granted anonymity because the proposed sale hasn’t been approved by the NBA Board of Governors. The news was first reported June 25 by Variety‘s sibling sports news brand Sportico.
AEG Chief Executive Officer Dan Beckerman in an interview said the proposed transaction “is part of some financial planning and redeployment of capital to other AEG projects and growth initiatives,” specifically mentioning venues, real estate, ticketing and live entertainment projects around the globe.
The plan is “expanding business lines and geography,” Beckerman said, declining to address how much the buyer has agreed to pay and at what valuation.
Not only is Anschutz the team’s biggest minority partner— his 27% stake is the second-largest behind the Buss family’s 66%—but his shares also carry a right of first refusal on any wider controlling sale, according to the people, who were granted anonymity because the plans are private.
It’s unclear if that right transfers to the proposed buyer.
Either way, the deal represents a significant chunk of one of the most storied and valuable franchises in sports. The Lakers have 17 NBA titles and a lineage of stars that stretches from current All-Star LeBron James through Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jerry West.
AEG owns and operates the Staples Center, where the Lakers recently extended their lease through 2041.
Tim Harris, the Lakers’ president of business operations, in an interview said the team viewed the proposed transaction as “additive” because its relationship with AEG wouldn’t change.
“Given the lease extension, we look forward to another 20 years–plus–of business with AEG,” he said. “There isn’t a lot that changes. We get to add more partners. We don’t view this as Phil is going anywhere.”
The Lakers were valued at $5.14 billion in Sportico’s most recent valuations, the third-highest total in the NBA behind the Knicks ($5.42 billion) and Warriors ($5.21 billion).
The Lakers have been owned by the Buss family since the late Jerry Buss purchased the team in 1979; it is now controlled by Jeanie, Jerry’s eldest daughter. Minority owners include billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and real estate developer Edward Roski.
Anschutz, 81, is worth $15.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. A dominant force in both sports and entertainment, AEG owns of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy, as well as a number of other teams, venues and music properties.
Anschutz has no plans to sell off other assets at this time, according to people familiar with his plans.
The Lakers have played in the Staples Center since 1999.