SBD/July 14, 2011/Franchises

Comcast-Spectacor Reaches Deal To Sell 76ers To Joshua Harris

Changes to the 76ers basketball side are expected under new ownership
Comcast-Spectacor "reached an agreement Wednesday to sell the 76ers to a group of investors" led by Apollo Global Management Senior Managing Dir Joshua Harris, according to Kate Fagan of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The deal is pending approval by the NBA's BOG, though "no difficulties are expected regarding the NBA's approval of the sale." While terms of the sale were not disclosed, sources "put the deal's value at approximately $280 million for a 90 percent share of the team." Comcast-Spectacor and Chair Ed Snider will retain a 10% share but "will relinquish operational control." The deal does not include the Flyers or Wells Fargo Center, both Comcast-Spectacor owned, and under terms of the agreement, the 76ers "will continue playing" in the arena. Comcast-Spectacor said the 76ers "will remain a long-term tenant of the Wells Fargo Center and will have a long-term cable broadcast agreement for its games with Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia." The TV deal runs through '29. Fagan notes Harris is joined in the prospective ownership group by The Blackstone Group Senior Managing Dir David Blitzer, hedge fund Wesley Capital Owner Art Wrubel and former NBA Kings Senior VP & Assistant GM Jason Levien. It remains unclear "what role, if any, Levien will play within the Sixers' front office." The investment group has met with 76ers President Rod Thorn "on several occasions" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/14). In Philadelphia, Bob Cooney cites a source as saying that the deal is for 100% of the 76ers, contrary to speculation that Snider will retain a stake. Another source said acquiring the NBA team is a "logical fit" for Harris. That source added, "He has always had a soft spot in his heart for Philadelphia" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/14). The PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS takes a deeper look at the prospective owners.

WHAT'S THE GAME PLAN? The INQUIRER's Fagan notes now that "details of the sale are understood, the immediate question becomes how the ownership swap will affect the team's basketball side." Thorn and 76ers coach Doug Collins "have had conversations with members of the new ownership group, but no one has revealed any sort of insight into the new regime's long-term plans; at this point it will likely require a few months behind the wheel before even the owners know what direction is best." Fagan notes as of now, a "feeling exists within the team that at least a small amount of change will occur." GM Ed Stefanski, whose contract with the 76ers "will expire soon, is somewhat of a redundant presence considering that Thorn is now officially in charge of personnel decisions." Couple Stefanski's role "with Levien's and Thorn's, and that's like three quarterbacks hovering over center" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/14).
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