CBS Sports’ Ken Berger is reporting that Comcast is "poised" to announce that the sale of the Philadelphia 76ers to a group led by billionaire investor Joshua Harris has been completed. Our own Brian Ward reported last week that a source familiar with the negotiations said that a deal was expected early this week.
The next step is for the sale to be approved by the NBA’s board of governors, which is not expected to be an issue. The final price is still unknown, but the rumored number has been around $280 million. In addition, Comcast will retain ownership of the Wells Fargo Center.
Harris, who has made his billions by investing in undervalued assets, would appear to be making this move at the perfect time. When the NBA lockout ends, it will be very likely that owning an NBA team will be more lucrative than it is now. Of course, it’s also likely that there will be a hard cap, which means that having a billionaire owner won’t be quite as advantageous as it may have been before the lockout.
Plus, if the rumored price of the team is to believed, it would be well under the $330 million valuation put on the team by Forbes. When you consider the fact that this is a team in a top five TV market, which also happens to love basketball at all levels, this could really be a steal for Harris and co in a few years. Business Insider says that Harris is getting the team "cheap" and says that if the team can become a contender, the deal will look like "highway robbery." Of course, that last point is key. When they're winning, the Sixers can be a massive draw in this town. And we've certainly seen the Phillies go from afterthoughts to dominating the local sports scene when they started being successful. So it's certainly possible.
Ensuring the success of the basketball side of the organization may very well fall to Jason Levien, a former player agent and executive with the Kings, who is also a part of the investment group with Harris that has purchased the team. Levien gave up a lucrative agent business to move into management with the Kings, but that relationship last only a year and a half after he clashed with GM Geoff Petrie. So while there has been no indications that the new ownership would look to clean house with Ed Stefanski and Rod Thorn, it would make a lot of sense to assume that Levien, as part owner, would like a hand in the basketball operations of the team.