Posted Jun 7 2011 12:37PM - Updated Jun 7 2011 4:15PM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Philadelphia 76ers are on the market and a person familiar with the deal says the franchise once home to Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson could be sold within the week.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the deal with the group led by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris is not yet complete.
Comcast-Spectacor, led by chairman Ed Snider, has owned the Sixers since 1996, but the group's chief operating officer confirmed Tuesday there are ongoing discussions about the team's future.
The person familiar with the deal said the Harris-led group was not the only bidder but is now the lead bidder, adding the deal has been in the works for several months.
ESPN.com, citing unidentified sources, first reported the Sixers were close to being sold to Harris. The site noted another investor included in the deal is former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien.
The deal would need to be approved by the league's Board of Governors.
Comcast is the nation's largest pay TV provider and the majority owner of media conglomerate NBC Universal. Comcast also owns the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers and the stadium where both teams play, the Wells Fargo Center.
NBC, now controlled by Comcast, retained its hold on U.S. Olympic television rights Tuesday in a four-games deal through 2020 worth $4.38 billion.
Harris is one of three founders of Apollo Global Management, a publicly listed alternative investment manager. Harris, through an Apollo spokeswoman, declined comment.
The Associated Press left a message for Snider seeking comment.
The 76ers were valued this year by Forbes at $330 million, 17th in the NBA. Comcast SportsNet spokeswoman Maureen Quilter said the 76ers have a deal with the station through 2029.
"The thing that they're buying is the cable," Forbes media executive editor Mike Ozanian said. "That's the biggest part of the asset. It's been undermonetized, the cable deal.
"They've got to get at least twice of what they've been getting. It's under $13 million a year. They'll have no problem. It's pure profit because there's no cost associated with that."
Ozanian said even with a potential lockout looming, the timing could be right for a buyer to strike.
"A labor stoppage can work to your advantage," he said. "If you believe they're going to get a significantly lower salary cap, and a hard salary cap, it can be positive for team values and profits."
Harris' group would be purchasing a team that hasn't won a championship since 1983.
Philadelphia has won only one playoff series since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA finals. This year, the Sixers won 41 games and stretched the Miami Heat to a five-game playoff series in Doug Collins' first season as coach.
The Sixers routinely lag behind the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers in attendance and attention in a crowded Philadelphia market. From the first year the company owned both teams, Snider has fought the popular notion that he favored the Flyers over the Sixers. Snider founded the Flyers in the 1960s and led them to Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.
"I guess it's the difference of having your own baby or adopting your child," Snider said years ago in an interview with the AP. "I've adopted the Sixers and I love the Sixers. I really do. But hockey, I started from scratch."
The Sixers' ownership group has explored selling the team before. In 2006, Comcast-Spectacor hired the sports investment firm Galatioto Sports Partners to review possible sale proposals and evaluate future strategies, which could have included selling the team. Comcast-Spectacor never said which suitors were interested in buying the team, nor did they reveal a potential selling price.
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