PHILADELPHIA — In the end, the scene looked straight out of an ultimate Broadway encore. One and two owners on the stage turned into seven, eight, nine, all single file and holding enough personalized 76ers jerseys to fill a few racks at the merchandise store.
All that was missing was a bow.
The Philadelphia 76ers are under new management — lots and lots of management, that even includes a dose of Hollywood star power.
New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris and the rest of his ownership group completed the deal to buy the Sixers from Comcast-Spectacor and wasted little time Tuesday making a splash on their first day in power.
Ed Stefanski is out as general manager and team president Rod Thorn will assume greater day-to-day control in running the franchise.
Doug Collins will not only remain the coach, but was asked to stand at the Palestra and publicly heaped with praise from his new bosses.
Among the lengthy list of new owners and investors include co-managing owner David Blitzer, former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien, GSI Commerace CEO Michael Rubin, real estate investors, film producers, and Hollywood power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.
The 76ers were valued this year by Forbes at $330 million, 17th in the NBA, and have a television deal with cable station Comcast SportsNet through 2029. Harris bought the group for a reported $280 million.
The Sixers lag well behind the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers — even Villanova — in interest and attendance. Collins led a rebirth on the court last season, leading them to 41 victories and a competitive, five-game playoff series loss against Eastern Conference champion Miami. Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks, and Thaddeus Young form a promising core, with veterans Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala also in the mix.
The new owners understand they have to win back the fan base as much as they have to win games.
Aron sounded like he was straight out of a late-night infomercial with his passionate pitch: Ticket prices are sliced, diced, and julienned! Harris could have been featured in Us Weekly magazine: NBA owners, just like US!
“I’ve been a 76ers fans since college,” Harris said. “Philadelphia is like a second home to me.”
Yes, a second home. Harris intends to run the Sixers (“my night job”) from New York — though he can surely afford the Acela.
He said he wouldn’t hesitate to pay a luxury tax, if it’s included in the new collective bargaining agreement
Before the lockout, the Sixers would have had about $55 million in payroll committed to next season, led by Brand’s $17 million and Iguodala’s $13.5 million. The Sixers spent the summer in trade talks involving Iguodala — plans that have been put on hold because of the lockout.
Harris, Blitzer and his group are buying the team with the NBA in the midst of a lockout. The first two weeks of the regular season have already been canceled.
“We’re trying to move along as if everything is as it normally is,” Thorn said. “You have to get ready scouting wise.”
Once they return, it’s possible A-list actor and rapper Smith could be in the stands and, ahem, Getting Iggy With It. Smith, who was not available for comment, is a Philadelphia native who attended Overbrook High School.
Turner posted on Twitter, “think it’s dope that the fresh prince is one of our new owners. Maybe willow can perform at halftime.”
Harris said a mutual connection was made once Smith expressed interested.
How about Smith’s 76ers vs. Jay-Z’s New Jersey Nets in the first Rapper’s Delight game?
The start of the season seems well down the road.
On Tuesday, it was all about the optimism and bright-eyed enthusiasm of a new era in Sixers history.
“We will be active, long-term owners,” Harris said.
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