76ers officially sold to new owners

By Dan Gelston

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 18 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

PHILADELPHIA — In the end, the scene looked straight out of an ultimate Broadway encore. One and two owners on the stage turned into seven, eight, nine, all single file and holding enough personalized 76ers jerseys to fill a few racks at the merchandise store.

All that was missing was a bow.

The Philadelphia 76ers are under new management — lots and lots of management, that even includes a dose of Hollywood star power.

New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris and the rest of his ownership group completed the deal to buy the Sixers from Comcast-Spectacor and wasted little time Tuesday making a splash on their first day in power.

Ed Stefanski is out as general manager and team president Rod Thorn will assume greater day-to-day control in running the franchise.

Doug Collins will not only remain the coach, but was asked to stand at the Palestra and publicly heaped with praise from his new bosses.

Adam Aron, the former chairman and CEO of Vail Resort, is the Chief Executive Officer and promised cost-saving changes for fans. The announced ticket prices for nearly 9,000 seats, yes, even the good ones, will be slashed. Tickets priced at $101 and $54 plummeted to $54 and $29. The Sixers also launched NewSixersOwner.com to solicit fan feedback in an attempt to energize one of the weakest and passionless fan bases in Philadelphia sports.

Harris and Co., who could have used name tags, did everything but address the roster. The lingering NBA lockout banned specific talk about players and a blueprint to build a championship team off limits.

Among the lengthy list of new owners and investors include co-managing owner David Blitzer, former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien, GSI Commerace CEO Michael Rubin, real estate investors, film producers, and Hollywood power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.

"At the end of the day, Josh is the managing partner," Blitzer said. "He's actually a great listener. He'll take in lots of great opinions. But at the end of the day, Josh gets to make the call. It's not like there's 15 people that all have rights to vote and say this and do that."

Harris is one of three founders of Apollo Global Management, a publicly listed alternative investment manager. He co-founded Apollo Global Management in 1990. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and a master's degree from the Harvard Business School. Harris' investment is a personal one and Apollo Management, LP is not involved in the transaction.

The 46-year-old Harris was worth $1.45 billion, according to Forbes, as of September.

Apollo invests heavily in distressed properties — which one could argue would include the Sixers. They can't fill their arena, haven't won a playoff series since 2003 and have gone years without turning a profit. Comcast-Spectactor chairman Ed Snider, who called the shots the last 15 years, told The Associated Press last month that massive financial losses led the company to strike a tentative deal to sell the team in July.

"I wouldn't call the 76ers distressed," Harris said. "That has a negative connotation."

Comcast-Spectacor bought the Sixers from Harold Katz on April 24, 1996. Comcast-Spectacor also owns the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers.

"This is one of the hardest business decisions I've ever had to make," Snider said. "The Sixers are family, and it is very difficult to say goodbye to an organization of great people with whom we have worked so closely over the last 15 years."

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