Comcast-Spectacor reaches deal to sell 76ers

Comcast-Spectacor reaches deal to sell 76ers
July 13, 2011, 3:09 pm

Pending league approval, the Philadelphia 76ers have changed ownership for the fifth time in franchise history.

A group led by billionaire Joshua Harris, a director at Apollo Global Management LLC, has reached an agreement to buy the Sixers from Comcast-Spectacor. The ownership group also consists of David Blitzer; senior managing director of The Blackstone Group; Jason Levien, a former player agent and Sacramento Kings executive; and Art Wrubel (meet the new ownership).

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the sale is believed to be for 280 million. Apollo and Blackstone are not involved in the transaction; the group is making personal investments.

We are honored to have the opportunity to be affiliated with this storied franchise, Harris said in a statement. As a basketball fan who attended college in Philadelphia, and with family roots here, I have always felt a strong connection to this City and the 76ers. We look forward to helping the 76ers organization build on this past seasons accomplishments in the years ahead. The ownership group also looks forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Comcast-Spectacor.

Comcast-Spectacor will continue to own the Wells Fargo Center, of which the Sixers will remain tenants. Comcast SportsNet also has the television rights through 2029.

As a result, the buying price is significantly lower than the league record 450 million that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber paid last summer for the Golden State Warriors. According to Forbes, the 76ers are worth 330 million, 17th in the NBA.

This transaction could alter the jobs of people currently in place. Team president Rod Thorn did not want to speculate on his role under the new regime but did reiterate that he has been in communication with them.

I had a face to face meeting with Harris and Levien about a week before the draft, Thorn said in an e-mail. I had a conversation with Harris on draft day and that's been it.

The deal now must be approved by the league's board of governors, which will be thorough in its investigation. It is difficult to say exactly how long that will take, but according to Adam Silver, the NBAs deputy commissioner, the process can be lengthy.

It's difficult to say how long the process would take before we see what the actual deal is but the process usually takes about two months, Silver explained in an e-mail. But it could be longer depending on how many background checks need to be conducted, the type of financing the buyers are using, etc. Approval does not have to be done in person but a group of owners would need to interview the buyers at some point before the board votes.

Given the financial woes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which recently filed for bankruptcy, it is understandable that the NBA will be thorough in doing its homework before welcoming this changing of the guard.

Apollo Management is an investment company that specializes in leveraged or distressed buyouts. It was co-founded by Harris in 1990, four years after he graduated the University of Pennsylvanias Wharton School of Business. He also holds a masters degree from Harvard Business School.

On April 24, 1996, Comcast-Spectacor, led by Chairman Ed Snider, bought the Sixers from Harold Katz (see box). The Sixers won their last championship (1983) during the Katz era.

Comcast-Spectacor also owns the Flyers, whom Snider founded in 1966. He has often contested the idea that he favors the Flyers.

"I guess it's the difference of having your own baby or adopting your child," Snider said years ago in an interview with the Associated Press. "I've adopted the Sixers and I love the Sixers. I really do. But hockey, I started from scratch."

The Sixers won their last championship during Katzs 15-year tenure. After losing the Finals to the Lakers in 1982, the Sixers added Moses Malone and swept the Lakers the following season to win the third title in franchise history.

In 1996 two months into Comcast-Spectacors ownership the Sixers selected Allen Iverson with the first overall pick of the draft. Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown was hired in May the next year, and five springs later the Sixers made their next appearance in the NBA Finals when again they met the Lakers and lost, this time in five games.

Since the 2001 Finals, the Sixers have won only one playoff series, and consequently their attendance has trailed that of the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers all of whom have been consistent championship contenders.

The Sixers have changed coaches seven times, including two interim hires. They have six trips to the postseason and exited in the first round five times. Trades have been made, free agents signed, general managers changed and most recently a new team president (Rod Thorn) added.

But this season was a positive step. The Sixers won 41 games and were eliminated in a competitive five-game series by the Miami Heat, who lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals.

The Sixers payroll for next season assuming its not wiped out by the current lockout is about 55 million, with just over 30 million going to Elton Brand (17 million) and Andre Iguodala (13.5 million). Iguodala has been the subject of frequent rumors, but he wont be moved until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Then the Sixers can continue the progress they began last season.

We are excited to become associated with this iconic team, Blitzer said, and to have the chance to serve the great City of Philadelphia and its loyal basketball fans.
E-mail Dei Lynam at dlynam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @DLynamCSN.
Related: The Sixers' new ownership group at a glance Sixers' Allen to play in France until lockout ends

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