SBD/October 19, 2011/Franchises

New 76ers Owners Introduce Ticket Price Cuts, Marketing Slogan

Harris and Aron were introduced as 76ers' owners at news conference yesterday

New 76ers Managing Owner Joshua Harris and new CEO Adam Aron “unwrapped the first phase of what they hope will be a successful face-lift for the city's once-proud NBA franchise: reductions in ticket prices, a new slogan, and a website dedicated to opening communication between fans and ownership,” according to Kate Fagan of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. A news conference yesterday “was the official swap in ownership," as Comcast-Spectacor, stewards for over 15 years, sold 100% of the franchise to Harris' investment group for about $280M. Although Aron and Harris were “unwilling to label the Sixers a 'distressed property,’ both said they believed the franchise wasn't fulfilling its potential, and the new ownership said it has pinpointed areas for improvement.” Aron “alluded to future announcements, but dropped four changes: a drastic price reduction for over 8,800 single-game tickets, a new slogan, 'Passionate. Intense. Proud,' a website, www.newsixersowner.com, where fans can submit observations and suggestions, and a dedication to improving the ‘fan experience on game night.’” Aron said that the “1,776 most intriguing submissions to the website will earn free Sixers tickets.” Ticket prices “will be reduced about 50 percent.” Yesterday’s push seemed “to revolve around opening communication: The new ownership wants feedback from its long-standing fans” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/19). Meanwhile, Aron said of the reduced ticket prices, “This is not a sale or promotion. These are our new ticket prices. Period. Full Stop … Simply stated, price will not be an obstacle in preventing Philadelphia sports fans from enjoying NBA basketball in person.” In Philadelphia, Bob Cooney wrote the Sixers have “outlined a tiered pricing system in which tickets for certain games will be higher.” Games designated “as ‘Select Games’ will be $5 more and ‘Choice Games’ will be $10 more” (PHILLY.com, 10/18).

BARGAIN SHOPPERS: In N.Y., Joanne Gerstner wrote Harris and his partnership group “are banking on the distressed economy and the ongoing NBA lockout makes this a good time to buy distressed property” (NYTIMES.com, 10/18). In Philadelphia, Joseph DiStefano writes Harris’ Apollo Global Management LLC has “a long record of buying big, complicated, troubled companies cheaply and reorganizing them to sell at a profit” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/19). The chart below lists members of the 76ers' new ownership group.

76ERS NEW OWNERSHIP GROUP
Joshua Harris Marc Leder
David Blitzer Martin Geller
Adam Aron David Heller
Will & Jada Pinkett Smith James Lassiter
Jason Levien Michael Rubin
Art Wrubel Erik Thohir
Travis Hennings Handy Soetedjo
   

THE RIGHT FIT: In Philadelphia, Fagan wrote, “This new ownership group isn’t messing around. They’ve pinpointed what they felt were weaknesses from the previous ownership and they want to flip that on its head. … It’s a new game plan and a welcomed one” (PHILLY.com, 10/18). Harris said, “We were lucky enough to get one of the most successful teams in basketball history at a time when we could get an appropriate deal.” In Philadelphia, Bob Ford writes, “In other words, they stole it. If you don’t believe that, check their record.” The theme of the press conference “was to wrap the ownership transition in all things Philadelphia, presumably to offset consumer backlash against a group that is decidedly New York." It was “a reasonable marketing strategy -- cutting ticket prices wasn’t bad, either -- but the truth is that if the Sixers can become really interesting again and compete for a championship, fans won’t care whether the owners jet in from Bali for every game.” Meanwhile, Ford writes Comcast-Spectacor “leaves with their mouth shut. No one showed up at the news conference to hand over the locker-room keys.” It will be interesting to see whether new ownership "goes far enough to revive the Sixers but, after the last 10 years or so, just being interesting is a move in the right direction." The new owners “think they will solve the problem and, judging by their resumes, you can’t blame them." Smart “goes a long way” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/19). Also in Philadelphia, Rich Hofmann writes under the header, “Sixers New Owners Have Tough Task In Regaining Fans.” The new ownership group “will search for the answer that unlocks the puzzle of a basketball town that won’t buy basketball tickets.” The Sixers “remain the only pro team in town whose fortunes at the gate are so inextricable linked, year by year, to performance.” Lowering ticket prices “is absolutely the right way to go -- and especially if the lockout lasts for any significant period of time” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/19).

FRONT-OFFICE SHAKEUP: The DAILY NEWS' Cooney reports 76ers GM Ed Stefanski yesterday “was informed that he was being relieved of his duties,” with one year left on his contract. Harris had decided to give President Rod Thorn “full charge of the duties he and Stefanski had shared last season” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/19).

IN OTHER NEWS: In Atlanta, Tim Tucker writes the NBA “remains quiet on the proposed sale of the Hawks, which appears stalled in the approval process.” Atlanta Spirit’s agreement “to sell a majority stake in the Hawks, as well as the Philips Arena operating rights, to Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo was announced Aug. 7, contingent on approval by the NBA.” Ten weeks later a decision on approval “does not seem close at a hand.” NBA VP/Communications Tim Frank confirmed that a “vote is not on the agenda for the league’s” BOG meetings today and tomorrow (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/19). 

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