Who Was Jack Cooke? Why Did He Sell Lakers to Jerry Buss?

Image Credit: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation/YouTube

‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty’ takes viewers to the 1980s when the Los Angeles Lakers establish an era of dominance in the NBA. However, before they can taste success and glory, the team must go through a transition phase. One of the first events of the transition is the team seeing a change of ownership. Owner Jack Kent Cooke is forced to sell the LA Lakers to businessman Jerry Buss. If you wish to learn more about Cooke’s decision to sell the NBA outfit and the reasons behind it, here’s everything we have gathered on the matter! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Who Was Jack Cooke?

Jack Kent Cooke was an American businessman born on October 25, 1912. After spending the early years of his life in Hamilton, he attended Malvern Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Ontario. Later, Cooke was hired by Roy Thomson to run radio station CJCS in Stratford. The two eventually became partners leading to the start of Cooke’s business career in broadcasting and media. Over the years, he purchased and ran various media outlets such as television networks and newspapers.

Image Credit: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation/YouTube

In 1951, Cooke began his foray into sports ownership with the purchase of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a minor league baseball club. After some success with the Leafs, Cooke set his sights on purchasing a Major League Baseball club and tried to purchase the St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Athletics, and Detroit Tigers.

However, Cooke failed to buy either team and sold the Leafs in 1964. In the meantime, Cooke also invested in the USA sports market and became the co-owner of sports teams such as the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, and Los Angeles Wolves. On April 6, 1997, Cooke passed away due to heart failure, aged 84.

Why Did Jack Cooke Sell Lakers to Jerry Buss?

After buying the LA Lakers in 1965 for $5 million from Bob Short, Cooke played an instrumental role in growing the team’s popularity. Under his ownership, the Lakers moved from Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena to the Forum, which remained the team’s home court for some time. The team was successful on the court and reached seven NBA Finals, winning the title in 1972. Thus, Cooke’s passion and dedication to the LA Lakers were evident.

Image Credit: Warrick Page/HBO

However, in 1979, he sold the Lakers to businessman Jerry Buss. Cooke was married to Barbara Jean Carnegie for 45 years, from 1934 to 1979. However, when the couple filed for divorce, Cooke was expected to pay $42 million in settlements. The figure was the highest divorce settlement in the USA history at the time.

To pay off the divorce settlement money, Cooke was forced to sell one of his most prized assets in the form of the LA Lakers. Jerry Buss purchased the team (along with the Forum and LA Kings) for a combined sum of $67 million. Cooke then used the money gained from the sale to pay for the divorce settlement. On the other hand, the Lakers flourished under Buss and dominated basketball in the 80s. This era, known as the “Showtime Era,” is the basis of the drama series ‘Winning Time.’

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