On an October afternoon in an airy conference room at their Hollywood office, founders Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman discussed Los Angeles Media Fund’s bold ambitions for the company’s sport industry future. Founded in 2014, the duo launched the production company following Horsman’s prior legal work for Soros on a number of films. Today, with an impressive slate of productions, Los Angeles Media Fund is utilizing storytelling to advance its position in the sport industry.
In August, Los Angeles Media Fund released Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers, a ten-part Hulu documentary series covering 40 years of Lakers history.
“It came to us initially as a feature documentary with two-to-four parts specifically about the Showtime era and a director who was not required to be attached,” Horsman recalled of the pitch. “We thought about it and realized there were a lot of documentaries that had been done about the Lakers and Laker rivalry. But there was something we gravitated to in the story, so we got on board with it.”
For Soros, an actor-turned-producer who has worked with top talent, including Warren Beatty and Brie Larson, the project’s opportunity for character development was appealing.
“It had outsized characters, like Dr. Buss, Magic and Kareem, who could drive an interesting enough of a story,” Soros said. “It’s not Bird and Magic again, even though we touch on those things.”
The potential for character development and storytelling excites Soros and Horsman about their company’s expansion into the sport industry. In 2017, Los Angeles Media Fund invested in Beyond Athlete Management, now LAMF Sport Management, a sport agency representing clients in the NBA and NFL. The company also is an active anchor investor in a technology entity that develops apps for top artists and athletes. In November 2021, through an IPO on NASDAQ by a so-called “special purpose acquisition company”–LAMF Global Ventures Corp. I–Soros and Horsman raised $258 million with the goal of acquiring a company in the sports team, entertainment, media and/or e-commerce space.
“We understand that there’s a bigger audience out there,” Horsman said. “We are sports fans, we know film, we know good content and understand tech. Put those together, and you end up with a sports agency making movies and creating apps.”
To ensure character-driven storylines in Hulu’s Legacy, Horsman and Soros needed to align with a top director to ensure buy-in on the project from the Lakers. Antoine Fuqua, whose credits include Training Day and The Equalizer, signed on.
“This was one of the most delightfully short conversations in the history of Hollywood,” Soros recalled. “We were like, ‘Hey, Antoine, we’re doing this multi-part docuseries on the Lakers.’ He said, ‘I’m in, but I don’t want to do it on just the Showtime Lakers.'”
Beyond the Showtime Lakers, the group wanted to tell the story of the team’s LakeShow and present eras. For the revised idea to work, extensive interviews were needed from individuals associated with the Lakers over the last four decades. One person held the key to securing these interviews: Jeanie Buss.
“We were really blessed by a lot of things, including her willingness to be a part of it and be a true partner,” Soros said. “She and Linda Rambis really opened up the door for access. We had to wonder whether someone like Magic Johnson, who had his own documentary coming out, would have sat down for us if it hadn’t been for Jeanie and Antoine. I remember being in the room and Magic said, ‘Anything for you, Jeanie.'”
Ultimately, the project took seven years to complete and brings viewers behind-the-scenes into intimate moments of Lakers history. Featuring expansive interviews with athletes and celebrities alike, Soros couldn’t cement one desired interview.
“The one person who we really wanted to get who we couldn’t–and that kind of fell on me–was Barack Obama,” he said. “First, we went to him in general and said, ‘people consider you the basketball fan in chief, so it would be great to get your side.’ We got a polite ‘no.’ Then when we saw the rough cut of the tenth episode and LeBron talking about what was happening in the [2020 NBA COVID-19] bubble where they have a really important conversation, we went back to his team, because we would’ve loved to have gotten his perspective. They were nice enough to seriously entertain it and were trying to find a time, but given our time limitations and the demands on his time, it didn’t quite work out.”
The ability to dial up a United States President signals the dichotomy between sports and politics in Soros’ life. Growing up in Connecticut, Soros–a self-described “skinny kid”–dabbled between hockey, lacrosse and tennis. Sports also paved the way for his family to immigrate to the United States.
Soros’ father, Paul, was born in Hungary in 1926. He survived the Holocaust by assuming a false identity, yet almost became a Russian prisoner of war when the Soviets invaded Hungary. In 1948 as a skier on the Hungarian Olympic team, Paul was set to compete in the Games in St. Moritz. Yet, an injury created an opportunity to escape the Soviet rule of his country.
“He fractured his leg prior to the Olympics, but faked his way through and dodged practice so he could get on the train for the Olympics,” Soros said. “Because he couldn’t compete, he got off of the train in Salzburg, Austria. It took about a year to get his immigration together to come to the U.S., but that’s how he got out of the country. Of the eleven people on the team, only three went back to Hungary.”
Arriving in the United States with $14 and a camera, Paul Soros pursued a successful career in civil engineering and became an ardent supporter of democracy. His brother, George, later immigrated to the United States and became one of the world’s wealthiest people and largest supporter of Democratic causes.
Soros’ family history has informed–but not dictated–his approach to film.
“I have an interest in social justice stories, but that is not the mandate of what we do,” Soros said. “My parents started a fellowship program supporting children of immigrants and immigrants doing graduate studies. We often tell the panelists that goodness is not a criteria–we are looking for future leaders in their respective fields. But, by and large, these people are very good. Here, our mandate is not to do social justice or necessarily promote diversity, but if you look at our track record and the people we work with, there is great representation in-front of and behind the camera.”
Soros is optimistic about storytelling as a tool to successfully unite Los Angeles Media Fund’s growing business endeavors.
“Characters are individuals, so their stories can be told in different ways,” Soros said. “We have created the infrastructure where we have the ability to tell stories in different ways and in different media. The link is that marriage of character and story. We have the means to take these great characters and bring out their stories.”
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