August 16, 2022

DealBook: Private Equity Princes Reach Deal for 76ers

Joshua HarrisPeter Foley/Bloomberg NewsJoshua Harris.David BlitzerSuzanne Plunkett/Bloomberg NewsDavid Blitzer.

A group led by Joshua Harris, a co-founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, announced late Wednesday that it reached an agreement to buy the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team from the sports company Comcast-Spectacor.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Mr. Harris and his partners will pay about $280 million for the 76ers, according to a person briefed on the deal who requested anonymity because he was unauthorized to discuss it. The deal is subject to approval by the National Basketball Association board of commissioners.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to be affiliated with this storied franchise,” said Mr. Harris 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.”

Mr. Harris’s group includes a large investment from David Blitzer, a senior executive at the private equity firm Blackstone Group. Both graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and have long rooted for the 76ers. Mr. Harris, 46, grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland; Mr. Blitzer, 41, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

Mr. Harris now resides in Manhattan and Mr. Blitzer, who has lived in London for several years, is moving back to New York later this summer. Each is making a personal investment; their firms, which are both New York-based, are not involved in the transaction.

Other members of Mr. Harris’s group include Art Wrubel, also a Wharton graduate and a portfolio manager at Wesley Capital, a real-estate focused hedge fund; and Jason Levien, a former agent for N.B.A. players and an executive with the Sacramento Kings.

The acquisition does not include the Wells Fargo Center or the Philadelphia Flyers, which will still be owned by Comcast-Spectacor.

The transaction is just the latest in which a private equity or hedge fund player has purchased a professional sports team. Tom Gores, the head of Platinum Equity, bought the Detroit Pistons basketball squad last month for about $325 million. (Platinum is involved in that investment.) And David Einhorn, the head of hedge fund Greenlight Capital, is buying a minority stake in the New York Mets baseball club.

These owners join a handful of other money men that own teams. The Boston Celtics ownership group consists of mostly private equity and venture capital executives, many of them from Bain Capital. And the Boston Red Sox principal owner is the hedge fund manager John Henry.

Both Mr. Harris and Mr. Blitzer are athletes in their own right. Mr. Harris ran in last year’s New York City Marathon, finishing the race in 3:53. Mr. Blitzer, for his part, is one of the best all-around athletes at Blackstone, a fact this reporter can verify based on personal experience.

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