Lakers CEO Jeanie Buss talks business (and championships) at team’s high-tech El Segundo home
Shortly before Los Angeles Lakers CEO Jeanie Buss received the Champion of Business Award from the City of El Segundo Wednesday night, cancer pioneer and new Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong approached her.
Reporters around Buss were all told to keep the questions to the new 120,000-square-foot Lakers training facility, where the event was being held, and the booming El Segundo business climate.
But there was a different championship – that of the NBA – on the mind of Soon-Shiong, a die-hard Lakers fan since the 1980s. “I told them you promised us a championship,” Soon-Shiong said, laughing.
Later, while introducing Buss to the crowd of roughly 500 members of the El Segundo business community and civic leaders, Soon-Shiong called her an “inspiration to women.”
After working for the organization since the age of 19, the 55-year-old took over as controlling owner of the Lakers from her father, the late Jerry Buss, who bought the franchise in 1979. In her brief remarks, Buss thanked the city and the community at large for the award.
“I want to thank everybody for coming and enjoying our home,” she said. “Thank you for making us feel so connected to your community.”
And then a few words about that certain someone coming to the Lakers next season, LeBron James.
“About the championship, I can’t make any promises, but I believe in Magic and that’s who’s leading us,” said Buss, referring to Magic Johnson who took over as president of basketball operations last year and who’s been credited with convincing James to sign with L.A.
In addition to honoring Buss, the city handed awards for Entrepreneur of the Year to Mike Mothner, founder and CEO of Wpromote, a digital marketing firm, and the Big Idea Award to Beyond Meat, which manufactures meat substitute products from a lab in El Segundo.
Los Angeles Times’ Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine gave the keynote address.
More than the awards and the speeches, however, it was the energy in the room especially among elected officials and civic leaders under the backdrop of the Lakers new training facility that could really be felt Wednesday night.
The center features a plyo-metric training area, weight room, on-court video display technology, state-of-the-art conditioning room with whirlpools and a cryogenic chamber as well as a commercial kitchen with on-staff nutritionist.
Buss said the franchise looked at other areas but decided to stay in El Segundo, down the street from the previous training center it shared with the Los Angeles Kings, for various reasons. The new center is roughly three times the size of the old space and puts the Lakers among the top echelon in the NBA in terms of training facilities, Buss said.
“With the success we’ve had in El Segundo in terms of winning five championships since we’ve been here and finding a City Council and business leaders, who were supportive of progress and growth, we really were of like mind,” Buss said.
El Segundo has been attracting a stunning number of new start-up firms as well as such big investors as the Lakers, LA Times and Soon-Shiong’s new cancer center. Since 2014, commercial vacancies in the city have dropped by 10 percent.
“There is so much going on that we’re excited about,” said Barbara Voss, Economic Development Director.
Mayor Drew Boyles, who’s lived in El Segundo for 24 years, said the change has been “unbelievable.”
“I’ve seen El Segundo really transform,” Boyles said. “I think El Segundo is finally being viewed in a different light, which is true innovation.”
While El Segundo encompasses just five square miles with 17,000 residents, roughly 55,000 people commute into the city for work.
Mayor Pro Tem Carol Pirsztuk said the city has tried to foster a welcoming environment toward business with low license taxes and other incentives.
“When you come to El Segundo you are not just a business and partner, you are a family member,” Pirsztuk said.