USC alumnus Gerald “Jerry” Buss, chairman and majority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, died Monday morning from kidney failure. He was 80.
The legendary owner had been hospitalized with an undisclosed form of cancer in the past 18 months, according to a statement released by the Lakers.
Buss was born on Jan. 28, 1933 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was raised in a coal-mining town in Wyoming during the Great Depression.
Buss received a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from USC in 1957 after graduating from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelor in Science in chemistry. After graduating from USC, he worked in aerospace technology for Douglas Aircraft in California and made real estate investments during the Los Angeles real estate boom, according to the New York Times.
Buss served as a professor and was an inaugural member of the USC College Board of Councilors.
Though Buss left the university to work in the business and sports world, he conducted philanthropic work at USC. In January 2008, Buss donated $7.5 million to the chemistry department in the USC College, which is now the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, in order to expand and support chemistry education and research at the university.
The donation funded two endowed chairs in the chemistry department, which were named after his USC mentors Sidney Benson and David Dows. The endowment also created a scholarship directed at chemistry graduate students.
In 1974 Buss became a founding owner of the Los Angeles Strings, a team within the World Team Tennis league. Buss bought the Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team and The Great Western Forum, along with some other real estate, in 1979 for $67.5 million, making it the largest transaction in sports history at the time.
Buss also operated the Los Angeles Sparks, a WNBA team. In 1999, he moved the three professional sports teams to their current location at the Staples Center. He sold The Forum in the same year.
Under Buss, the Lakers won 10 NBA championships from 1980 to 2010. Buss was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. Forbes valued the Lakers at $1 billion in January, making it the second-most profitable team in the NBA.
Ownership of the Lakers will remain with the Buss family, according to a statement from the Lakers. Funeral and memorial service arrangements are pending.