Sixers Sale Near, End to the Lockout ... Not So Much

The group led by Joshua Harris is about to sign on the dotted line for the Sixers. But how long will he have to wait once the deal has been approved to actually see his team play?

Joshua Harris and his group of investors are closing in quickly on their purchase of the Philadelphia 76ers from Comcast. A source familiar with the negotiations said today the asset purchase agreement would be signed either tomorrow or early next week. At that point, league approval would be the final hurdle to removing Ed Snider from the owners' box at the Wells Fargo Center (at least when there's hardwood laid on top of the ice, that is). Bloomberg is reporting a price tag of about $280M for the team.

The lockout does not appear to be a significant hurdle to the closing of the sale, nor to league approval. This transaction isn't catching anyone by surprise at this point, and the other owners can hold a vote on approval either in person or over the phone. It's no longer a matter of "if" the Sixers will be sold, or "who" they will be sold to (there were four or five "serious" bidders earlier in the process, however). It's a matter of when will the Harris group first replace Snider and Comcast at the owners' table for labor negotiations, then in the fancy team offices as the new decision makers for the franchise. The answer is probably within a month.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, had some sobering thoughts on the lockout, "If the players don't get real, there won't be a season," he said. He also confirmed the Sixers were one of the 22 teams (according to the league) who lost money in the 2009-2010 season. The reason for the poor financials is fundamentally the CBA which just expired. The players' cut of Basketball-Related Income is simply too high for a team like the Sixers to make money. Or, to be more accurate, it's impossible for the Sixers to make money while drawing only 14,000 fans per game. Low attendance has a ripple effect from poor merchandising sales to flagging team sponsorships.

There has been some talk about revenue sharing among the owners as being a salve to the financial woes of the "have nots," but the league overall is losing money, a significant amount of money, so even if you could somehow get the "haves" to agree to share all profits, the only thing you'd be accomplishing is spreading the losses out evenly among all the teams. If the league as a whole lost $300M last season, then each team would lose $10M instead of having the Lakers and Knicks making a ton of money while the 22 unfortunate teams languish. Not exactly a palatable solution for this problem.

When Harris takes over, he's probably going to have to wait some time before he can watch his team play. When his people are finally able to start calling the shots, though, the landscape should be much improved for owners, but it probably won't be foolproof. Harris is going to have to find a way to get more than 14,000 people through the door on a nightly basis if he's truly interested in turning this franchise around. The hope has to be that the path to improved attendance is to build a long-term contender, and maybe that, too, will be easier under the next CBA.

If you need a bit of good news, the source did say there's been no talk of moving the team. He mentioned Seattle, Las Vegas and Louisville as the only markets out there who could potentially support a team, but none of them is as attractive as Philadelphia.

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