Lease means Sixers likely 'not going anywhere'

Lease means Sixers likely 'not going anywhere'

August 8, 2013, 11:30 am
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According to Forbes, the Philadelphia 76ers are valued at $418 million. (USA Today Images)

Joshua Harris and his investment group have considered purchasing another professional sports franchise. The New Jersey Devils are believed to be one of at least three sports-related concerns that Harris' contingent has looked into acquiring. But that doesn’t mean Harris, the Sixers’ majority owner, can or would move the team out of town anytime soon.

The Sixers' lease with the Wells Fargo Center is believed to be at least 20 years. According to people with knowledge of the situation, it also contains “significant lease provisions and protections” that would make it difficult for the Sixers to break the contract.

When reports first surfaced about Harris’s interest in the Devils, some people wondered what that might mean for the Sixers. The Devils' deal would ostensibly include the Prudential Center. Both the hockey team and the arena where it plays are owned by Jeff Vanderbeek, who is believed to be $230 million in debt. According to Forbes, the Prudential Center alone could be “sold for under $200 million.”

Some have speculated that acquiring the Devils might prompt Harris to move the Sixers to northern New Jersey to play in the Prudential Center. The Sixers play in the Wells Fargo Center, which is owned by Comcast-Spectacor.

It seems unlikely that the Sixers will end up in Newark, however. Harris and his minority partners bought the Sixers in 2011 for $287 million. (The team is currently valued at $418 million.) At the time, they signed a lease to occupy the Wells Fargo Center that was described as “long term.”

While one person with knowledge of the proceedings said the Sixers are “not going anywhere,” that might not be the point. Acquiring the Devils and the Prudential Center would give Harris “leverage” to potentially build a basketball arena in Philadelphia, thereby increasing the value of the franchise, according to someone with an understanding of the situation.

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