Source tells ESPN: 76ers sales talks ongoing

Photo of Joshua Harris Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

June 8, 2011 11:43:01 AM PDT
A source has told ESPN that the Philadelphia 76ers are for sale, and a deal is "imminent."

A report posted on quotes the source, identified only as someone with knowledge of the talks, as saying 76ers owner Comcast-Spectacor is in talks to sell the team to a group led by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris.

The Associated Press, citing a person familiar with the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the team could be sold within the week.

In response, Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko issued a statement to Action News reading:

"I can confirm that we are in discussions about the future of the team, but these discussions are confidential and we cannot talk about the details. At some point, we may have something more to say about these discussions, but we will not be making any comments at this point."

Action News spoke with Sixers Head Coach Doug Collins, guard Evan Turner, and President Rod Thorn about the possible sale.

"From my standpoint, that's not something I really get involved in so I'm just taking in all the information like everybody else, so we'll see," Collins said.

"Business is business, I guess. I'm just trying to focus on getting better day by day and playing hard for whoever is owning the team. I like Mr. Snider, he's a great guy and that's pretty much it," Turner said.

"I think that whatever transpires, the Sixers are headed in the right direction and we'll keep going that way," Thorn said.

Action News caught up with NBA Hall of Famer and former Sixer Charles Barkley after his workout this evening in Bala Cynwyd.

He says he doesn't know much about Joshua Harris.

"It's always good when they start a sentence with billionaire, that's always a good thing," Barkley said.

Barkley says his old team had a good year and will be a good investment and he believes the players shouldn't be concerned about a new owner.

"The fans shouldn't care either. I think whoever owns the team, I think most people want to win, but who owns the team should not have anything to do with the team."

ESPN said other partners in the deal include private equity executive David Blitzer and former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien.

Harris and Blitzer have Philadelphia ties, ESPN said, having graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania within a few years of each other.

Harris is one of three founders of Apollo Global Management, a publicly listed alternative investment manager. Harris, through an Apollo spokeswoman, declined comment to the AP.

Through his holding company Spectacor, Ed Snider has controlled the Sixers since 1996, the same year Spectacor merged with Comcast. Comcast-Spectacor also owns the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Wells Fargo Center where both teams play.

The company would continue to own and operate the arena with the Sixers as a tenant, sources told ESPN.

Once the parties reach final agreement, it would become official only with approval of the league's Board of Governors.

The Sixers were not known to have been for sale.

The 76ers were valued this year by Forbes at $330 million, 17th in the NBA.

The team has won only one playoff series since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA finals. This year, the Sixers won 41 games and stretched the Miami Heat to a five-game playoff series in Doug Collins' first season as coach.

The Sixers routinely lag behind the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers in attendance and attention in a crowded Philadelphia market. From the first year the company owned both teams, Snider has fought the popular notion since he bought the team from Harold Katz in 1996 that he favored the Flyers over the Sixers. Snider founded the Flyers in the 1960s and led them to Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.

The Sixers haven't won a championship since 1983.

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

The Sixers' ownership group has explored selling the team before. In 2006, Comcast-Spectacor hired the sports investment firm Galatioto Sports Partners to review possible sale proposals and evaluate future strategies, which could have included selling the team. Comcast-Spectator never said which suitors were interested in buying the team, nor did they reveal a potential selling price.


The Associated Press and ESPN contributed to this report.