A group led by Joshua Harris, a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, who has watched the Sixers play for a long time, officially purchased the Philadelphia 76ers from Comcast-Spectator this week. Actually, Harris, 46, became a fan of the team during the 1982–83 season.
That was a big year for professional basketball in this town. The Sixers, led by Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones, won an NBA championship.
Adam Aron, an Abington High graduate, is the Sixers’ new chief executive officer. Aron has watched the Sixers play even longer than Harris. He remembers the 1983 championship team, but also the 1966–67 team, which featured basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Chet Walker, Wali Jones and Luke Jackson.
Harris and Aron are joined by investor David Blitzer, who will serve as co-managing owner and an alternate governor of the NBA.
Other investors include Martin Geller, David Heller, Travis Hennings, James Lassiter, Marc Leder, Jason Levien, Michael Rubin, Philadelphia’s own actor Will Smith, and his wife and actress Jada Pinkett Smith, Handy Soetedjo, Erick Thohir and Art Wrubel.
All of the aforementioned have made personal investments in the team and would like to give pro basketball a boost in this town. Harris bought the Sixers for a reported $280 million.
The announcement was made on Tuesday at the Palestra, the city’s legendary basketball arena, which has provided basketball fans with some of the most exciting games this town has ever seen. Harris and Aron talked about slashing ticket prices in addition to receiving input from fans on basketball and other marketing efforts.
The two things Harris and Aron seem to bring to the Sixers is a sense history and genuine interest in the organization beyond money. They’re both successful businessmen. Harris is a managing partner of Apollo Management, L.P., which he co-founded in 1990. According to Forbes, Harris is worth $1.45 billion. Aron was the former chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, the world’s second largest ski resort operator, which under his direction became one of the nation’s premiere ski destinations.
When Harris was a student at Penn, the Quakers’ big stars were Karl Racine and Perry Bromwell. They won a lot of games for Penn along with a couple Ivy League championships. So, The Palestra was a good backdrop for him. He has a good flavor for basketball in this city and what he would like to accomplish with the Sixers.
“I’m going to be a great fan,” Harris said. “I’m going to be excited. I’m going to be upset when we lose and excited when we win. Having said that, we are going to try to be rational when it comes to making decisions about how we run the team and I think it’s pretty simple. We want to be world class and cutting-edge up and down. Everything we do with this team we want to reflect well on us and to be positive to the community. That’s on the court, that’s off the court and it starts with how we all conduct ourselves.”
Harris and Aron will have a lot of help with running the organization. Rod Thorn, Sixers president, will have a bigger role with the departure of Ed Stefanski, who was the team’s general manager.
As followers of the team, Harris and Aron are aware of what Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, was able to do with this team. Collins led the Sixers to a playoff appearance with a 41-41 record after a 3-13 start. Philly lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. The Heat went to the NBA Finals before losing to the Dallas Mavericks. The Sixers key players were Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young.
“Well, I’ll have to be careful with what I say, because I lived in Miami last year,” Aron said. “I watched every game of the Heat-Sixers series, and I can sure tell you, as Josh said, our allegiances are Philadelphia 76ers all the way. Not just to basketball, but maybe to all professional sports. We’re going to be watching a lot of Sixers basketball.”
They’ll be very busy.