Scott O’Neil has become the new Sixers CEO, the team announced Monday morning. O’Neil will replace former CEO Adam Aron.
Aron, who became the team’s CEO after the new ownership consortium bought the franchise two years ago, is expected to work with majority owner Joshua Harris to pursue new investment opportunities. Aron will also keep his minority share in the organization.
The change comes after weeks of speculation that Aron would be ousted as the team’s CEO. On June 24, Fox 29 initially reported that Aron had been fired. CSNPhilly.com and the Inquirer then reported that Aron was no longer CEO.
In a bizarre saga, both Aron and Harris were believed to be out of the country when the story broke. Harris, a lifelong friend of Aron, was somewhere in Asia. Aron was believed to be in Africa. Shortly after midnight the next day, June 25, Aron dispatched the following tweets:
Just minutes ago, I got off a plane from vacation in Africa and saw press reports. A la Mark Twain, rumors of my demise greatly exaggerated— Adam Aron (@SixersCEOAdam) June 25, 2013
I'm delighted to report that this is an immensely exciting time in my career. Moral of story: don't go on a faraway vacation!— Adam Aron (@SixersCEOAdam) June 25, 2013
As recently as last week, Aron was at the Sixers’ PCOM practice facility to watch Sam Hinkie introduce new draft pick Michael Carter-Williams to the media. At the time, Aron said his role with the franchise remained unchanged. Now he’s out.
According to Aron, he will head up a new investment fund that includes Harris and several other Sixers owners. Aron said the timing of transitioning to the new venture came from him while the idea was generated by Harris.
"It’s good, it’s exciting, it’s big, it’s fun, and it obviously grabbed my attention right away," Aron told CSNPhilly.com. “When Josh told me he wanted to go down this road, I jumped at the opportunity to go with him.
“It’s a decision that I made, and I’m giving up one very good thing for another good thing. We haven’t acquired, yet, what I hope we can acquire, but for that to be as fruitful as I hope it can be, we have to be successful in our acquisition efforts. I’m very confident that we’ll find attractive investments.”
Aron declined to provide details on what, specifically, he, Harris and the other members of their investment group are attempting to acquire.
While Aron’s future function with the team remains uncertain, O’Neil’s job has become clear. O’Neil, a Villanova grad, last worked for the New York Knicks. After being named president of Madison Square Garden in July 2008, he resigned from that position last September. While in New York, O’Neil was heavily involved with the marketing and business sides of the Knicks and MSG. Now O’Neil will handle those same responsibilities for the Sixers.
O'Neil -- who served as senior vice president for team marketing and business operations for the NBA from 2004-2008 -- helped steady the Knicks franchise following the turbulent tenor of Isiah Thomas. During different points in his career, O’Neil oversaw various business operations for the New York Rangers and New York Liberty. He also once served as vice president of sales for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I have a great deal of respect for Josh Harris and the other members of the Sixers ownership group, and I am truly looking forward to working with them,” O’Neil said in a statement. “Josh wants to win -- on and off the court -- and has demonstrated a strong commitment to building the right organization from top to bottom. Philadelphia is a city built on hard work, grit and the strongest sense of community that exists anywhere in the country. We will work every day to live those values, integrate ourselves into the fabric of this community, and make our fans and business partners proud to be part of our continued resurgence.”
In the span of a few months, the Sixers have completely restructured their organizational hierarchy. After going 34-38 last season, the Sixers parted company with former general manager Tony DiLeo and former head coach Doug Collins, while former president Rod Thorn transitioned to a consultant capacity. While the Sixers still don’t have a head coach, the top of the franchise is now clearly structured. Hinkie handles the day-to-day basketball operations while O’Neil will serve as his mirror on the business side. Both are expected to work in tandem and report directly to Harris.
“We believe that Scott’s unique blend of experience, relationships and demonstrated leadership over the past two decades at the NBA, Madison Square Garden Sports and the Philadelphia Eagles will make him the perfect CEO of our business as we work to take the team to the next level,” Harris said in a statement. “With [O’Neil] and [Hinkie], I believe we have put in place a dynamic, industry-leading management team that should help position the Sixers for success both on and off the court in the future."