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Sports

NBA Lockout Doesn’t Stop Sale Of 76ers

By DAN GELSTON, AP Sports Writer
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President of the 76ers Rod Thorn / Copyright 2011 NBAE  (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

President of the 76ers Rod Thorn / Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers are under new management.

The deal to sell the Sixers to a group led by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris has been completed. The Sixers will hold a press conference Tuesday to introduce the owners. The sale ends Comcast-Spectacor’s 15-year run of ownership.

The group also includes David Blitzer, Art Wrubel, and Jason Levien. Levien is a former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive.

NBA Commissioner David Stern says Harris and Blitzer bring vast business experience that will greatly benefit the team as it continues to grow both on and off the court.

Harris is one of three founders of Apollo Global Management, a publicly listed alternative investment manager.

Comcast-Spectacor, led by chairman Ed Snider, purchased the Sixers from Harold Katz on April 24, 1996. Comcast-Spectacor also owns the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.

“Over the last 15 years, a number of different individuals or entities have inquired about purchasing the Sixers, and to be honest, I was not looking to sell the team,” Snider said. “But in discussions with Josh and his partners, it became clear that this was an offer that made sense for the franchise and for the future of Comcast-Spectacor.

Comcast-Spectacor also owns the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers will become a tenant in the building once the NBA lockout is over.

Harris, Blitzer and his group are buying the team with the NBA in the midst of a lockout. The first two weeks of the regular season have already been canceled.

The 76ers were valued this year by Forbes at $330 million, 17th in the NBA, and have a television deal with cable station Comcast SportsNet through 2029.

Harris 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.

“On behalf of my partners, I genuinely want to thank Ed Snider and Comcast-Spectacor for choosing us to steward the Philadelphia 76ers, a storied NBA franchise. We are excited to be writing a new chapter in Sixers lore,” Harris said. “I also want to thank Comcast-Spectacor for their gracious assistance during the transition.”

The Sixers hired Adam Aron, the former chairman and CEO of Vail Resort, as Chief Executive Officer. Actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith also made personal investments in the team.

“I’m excited about celebrating and building on the extraordinary heritage of the 76ers, the third winningest team in NBA history,” Aron said. “We will work tirelessly to make Philadelphia sports fans proud.”

The group is purchasing a team that hasn’t won a championship since 1983. Under Snider’s ownership, the 76ers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA finals.

The Sixers have won only one playoff series since 2001 and have been stuck in mediocrity for most of the last decade. They haven’t had a winning record since 2004-05, but have made the playoffs three times since.

This past season, the Sixers won 41 games and stretched the Miami Heat to a five-game playoff series in Doug Collins’ first season as coach.

Before the lockout, the Sixers would have had about $55 million in payroll committed to next season, led by Elton Brand’s $17 million and Andre Iguodala’s $13.5 million. The Sixers spent the summer in trade talks involving Iguodala — plans that have been put on hold because of the lockout.

Snider told The Associated Press last month that sagging crowds and massive financial losses led Comcast-Spectacor to strike a tentative deal to sell in July.

“This is one of the hardest business decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Snider said on Tuesday. “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.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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