Magic Johnson sells Lakers shares

Updated: October 18, 2010, 8:01 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Magic Johnson has sold his shares in the Los Angeles Lakers, the team announced on Monday.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Lakers season-ticket holder for 25 years, bought Johnson's stake in the team for an undisclosed sum.

"I am truly humbled to have been a Lakers player for 13 years and an owner for over 10 years," Johnson said in a statement. "I thank Dr. [Jerry] Buss from the deepest part of my heart and soul for allowing me such an incredible opportunity. I will continue to work alongside Dr. Buss, Jeanie Buss and [general manager] Mitch Kupchak in their efforts to continually build and maintain the best NBA franchise in the league. 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. I am and will always be a Laker for life."

Johnson bought shares representing about 4.5 percent of the Lakers in June 1994 for a reported $10 million. Johnson said the sale was strictly a "bittersweet business decision," but the five-time league champion has long been interested in taking a larger ownership role in an NBA franchise.

Soon-Shiong has played a primary role in cutting-edge treatments for a wide variety of cancers. He is chairman of the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation, chairman and CEO of All About Advanced Health and founder of the National Coalition for Health Integration. He is also the executive director of the UCLA Wireless Health Institute and professor of Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics and Bioengineering at UCLA.

"Earvin Johnson is a shining example of excellence on and off the court, and it is a privilege to have acquired his ownership position," Soon-Shiong said in a statement.

Johnson, 51, was the first overall pick of the Lakers in 1979 and led the team to five championships in his 13-year career. He revealed in 1991 that he is HIV positive and promptly retired, but Johnson returned for the 1992 All-Star Game. He then retired again after player protests over contracting the disease. In 1996, he came back for 32 games with the Lakers before retiring for good.

Johnson, who finished with career averages of 19.5 points and 11.2 assists per game, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

"The sale of Earvin's share of the team is a business decision which will not change our relationship," Buss, the Lakers' majority owner, said in a statement. "Our friendship goes well beyond business. Patrick is a longtime and passionate Lakers fan and we are delighted to have him as a partner."

Johnson previously has said he is interested in owning a larger chunk of another NBA team, which would require him to sell his stake in the Lakers. Johnson bought his shares of the Lakers in the mid-1990s.

"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. "I am and will always be a Laker for life."

Johnson's decision to sell his stake in the team, which is slightly less than 5 percent of the team, immediately raised speculation that he was pursuing a larger ownership stake, perhaps even a majority stake, elsewhere. The Michigan native expressed interest last month in taking a significant role in a group attempting to buy the Detroit Pistons led by Mike Ilitch, who also owns the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. Ilitch's group hasn't publicly made any connection with Johnson.

But Johnson's longtime agent Lon Rosen told ESPNLosAngeles.com that Johnson's decision to sell his stake Monday was not immediately connected to any other moves.

"Earvin is still going to be very connected with the Lakers," Rosen said. "This really was just a smart business decision. "

Soon-Shiong is an innovative physician, a businessman, a philanthropist, and a UCLA professor. He founded two lucrative pharmaceutical companies: Abraxis BioScience, which was purchased by Celgene Corp. for $2.9 billion last week, and American Pharma Partners.

"Our family looks forward to a future filled with the excitement this team brings to the city and the nation," Soon-Shiong said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.