PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, while not directly confirming a report posted by ESPN.com that the sale of the team is imminent, are saying there are confidential discussions going on with another party “about the future of team.”
Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko (below right) released a statement at noon today confirming that discussions are going on but says he is not prepared to discuss the details.
“At some point, we may have something more to say about these discussions, but we will not be making any comments at this point,” Luukko’s statement said.
The source of the surprise sale report is a posting on ESPN.com that described the sale of the team by Comcast-Spectacor to a New York-based leveraged buyout specialist, Joshua Harris, as “imminent.”
Also reported to be part of the group is a private equity executive, David Blitzer, and former NBC player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien.
Harris, 46, is a co-founder of the Apollo Global Management. He made the Forbes’ 2011 billionaire rankings with a reported net worth of $1.5 billion.
Blitzer moved to London in 2002, where he set up the Blackstone Group’s European offices. Blackstone is ranked as one of the largest private investment groups in the world.
Harris and Blitzer have at least some Philadelphia connections. Both men are graduates of the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania.
The news of the imminent sale of the team apparently took many by surprise, and apparently leaked out as NBA owners and officials are taking in the championship series.
Tim Frank, a spokesman for the NBA, said he has no comment on the report.
If indeed the parties reach a deal, the proposed sale would have to be approved by the NBA’s board of governors, made up of team owners.
The ESPN.com report is saying that the 76ers will remain in Philadelphia and continue to play in the Wells Fargo Center, which is controlled by Comcast-Spectacor.
The group also owns the Philadelphia Flyers.
Meanwhile, KYW Newsradio’s Lynne Adkins reports that according to a local expert, a change for the Sixers could be a good thing.
The 76ers have been a struggling franchise for years, according to Joe Mahan, an assistant professor in the sport and recreation management program at Temple University. He says a change at the top could be positive.
“Injecting new ownership from a top-down perspective can change a lot of things,” says Mahan. “It can change who makes the decisions in terms of player personnel, it can change the people at the top who make marketing decisions to promote the team in different ways.”
He adds that Philadelphia is a huge sports town with all the major teams, and he expects that the Sixers will stay even if sold.
Reported by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio 1060