Joshua Harris and his group paid $320 million to Jeff Vanderbeek for the rights to the Devils and the lease to the Prudential Center in Newark. (AP)
NEWARK, N.J. -- If as a Philadelphia sports fan Josh Harris’ dual ownership of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils is unsettling or strikes a chord of unfaithfulness, he asks that you hear him out.
“[This] is not going to affect the 76ers,” Harris said Thursday at a press conference announcing his purchase of the Devils. “The 76ers are in Philly and that is a fantastic city. There have been some conspiracy theories out there that I want to categorically shut down. The Sixers are staying in Philly.”
Harris, managing owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, was introduced along with David Blitzer as the new owners of the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Harris and his group paid $320 million to Jeff Vanderbeek for the rights to the Devils and the lease to the Prudential Center. The NHL's board of governors approved the deal on Wednesday (see story).
“My message [to Sixers fans] is don’t be annoyed,” Harris said. “We love Philly. I can’t tell you how many hours we have spent over the past months recruiting Sam (Hinkie), hiring Sam whom I think is an excellent GM; recruiting Scott (O’Neil) and hiring Scott; recruiting Brett (Brown), hiring Brett. We are talking endless amounts of focus and time.”
Harris was quick to point out that there are others who own more than one sports franchise, citing Paul Allen, who owns the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA, the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL and the Seattle Sounders of MLS.
“I think the fans see me down in Philly in the stands,” Harris said. “I don’t think owning a hockey team in New Jersey should do anything to dissuade the fans in Philly. I am totally committed to Philly. I am involved there charitably. I run marathons there. I just don’t think they are mutually exclusive. I think you can do both and have commitments to two cities and we are going to bust our butts to win in Philly. We just ask for a little bit of time.”
One of the leading conspiracy theories surrounding Harris' takeover of the Prudential Center is that the Sixers' partnership will make a concerted effort to move their NBA franchise north, putting the Sixers and Devils under one roof.
Harris insisted Thursday that is not the case.
“This is a whole different situation,” he explained. “Having an arena and a team you have more flexibility in terms of the fan experience than you do as a tenant, agreed. But [Comcast-Spectacor] does a great job running [the Wells Fargo Center]. We don’t have much control over it, but they do a great job. But now we are booking concerts and other events. You don’t have to think about that if you just own a basketball team. They are two separate situations and we are excited about both of them.”
After pledging his allegiance to keeping the Sixers in Philadelphia, Harris stressed his excitement in the hiring of head coach Brett Brown.
“My impression of him is awesome,” Harris said. “As you know we took our time and we kept saying it is not about getting the coach fast it is about getting the right coach. So if you look at what we did down in Philly we have a new GM, new president of business operations and a new coach. We think we have all-star talent at every position. Making a long-term commitment to Brett was something we were prepared to do for someone of that caliber and quality.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.