Philadelphia 76ers: New Ownership and Their Potential Franchise Influence

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Philadelphia 76ers: New Ownership and Their Potential Franchise Influence
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April 21, 2011: A fan encourages the team in Philly. Miami won, though, and went up 3-0 in the playoff series.

Can the Philadelphia 76ers’ prospective new owners—a group headed by 40-something billionaire Joshua Harris of Apollo Global Management, LLC—take the team back to the NBA’s mountain top? We'll soon see.

He apparently knows something about mountains, so the new ownership could be off to a good start.

Harris serves as an executive officer for Apollo—a private equity investment firm headquartered in New York. The business specializes in big money leveraged buyout transactions and snapping up whacked out securities.

Like a lot of entities and enterprises in America, the company is named after a Greek god who lived on Mount Olympus—the throne of Zeus and home of the 976 million other gods of Greek mythology. All right, hyperbole much, but Apollo is the Greek pagan god of music, poetry, plague, oracles, sun, medicine, light and knowledge.

Lake Cruise could stand for Love And Knowledge Everyone, Christ Rules Until It Someday Ends.  As it was in the beginning of this article, so shall it be in the valuable end.

“Spotting hidden value” is Apollo Global’s motto of prestige. 

Harris matriculated from the elite Ivy League University of Pennsylvania’s end-all Wharton School. He evidently has enough basketball and investment banking business sense to help purchase a 90 percent stake in the 76ers.

The reported $280 million price tag is $50 million less than the latest guesses about the franchise’s worth—$330 million, according to Forbes magazine via Philadelphia’s bizjournals.com

According to agm.com, the big business is one of “contrarian, value-oriented investors in private equity, credit-oriented capital markets and real estate, with significant distressed expertise.”

The corporation reported $696 million total revenue for the first quarter of 2011—up 211 percent from $224 million in the same period last year. As of March 31 this year, their total assets under management were $70 billion—up 25 percent from $56 billion as of March 31, 2010.

These are dreamy numbers for most people. Harris’ dreams of converting the 76ers into championship contenders could be thought by some to be hovering in outer space.

In 1972, Apollo 17 became the last manned mission in America’s Apollo space program. All Philadelphians should know who Apollo Creed is. Actor Carl Weathers played this character in the Rocky movies.

Apollo the blockbuster investment firm is led by three managing partners—Leon Black, Harris and Marc Rowan. Including about 160 investment pros in New York, L.A., London, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mumbai, they lead a squad of some 500 employees.

Henry Silverman is vice chairman and director. According to his bio, in 1986 he and renowned corporate raider Saul Phillip Steinberg co-founded Telemundo Group—the Spanish-language television network. 

Wikipedia mistakenly lists Silverman’s and Steinberg’s venture as Univision—Telemundo’s rival.  Wiki also currently mistakes Mr. Steinberg with Saul Steinberg—who was renowned for The New Yorker illustrations for nearly 60 cartooning years.

In name, the Philadelphia 76ers have been around since 1963. The franchise’s first of two NBA championships in Philly came in 1967. 

One Wilton Norman Chamberlain was a player on that team. You may have heard of.  Chamberlain was a sex god—if you believed in his lady-killing boasts.

I’m sure the new head tentative owner has heard of him. The ownership group also knows their purchase has to be approved by the NBA Board of Governors—probably a mere formality.

In Greek mythology, Olympus is formally the home of the Grecian gods. After they smashed off on the enemy in the Titan War, Mount Olympus supposedly formed itself as the gods’ crib.

In 2005, the mountain was featured as the reverse seal on a euro collectors' coin: the €10 Greek National Park Olympus commemorative. On the coin, the War of the Titans is depicted.

Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge played ball with a titanic NBA legend—Larry Bird—but D.A. has some ‘splaining to do. Ainge is largely responsible for trading center Kendrick Perkins at seemingly the most inopportune time last season. 

Ainge tried to rebound by drafting a very promising interior payer in former Big Ten Player of the Year, JaJuan Johnson of Purdue.

If Philly and New York step their rebounding games up, then there could be another Titan War in the Atlantic Division. But, if Boston’s Big Three sets out to reclaim Ainge’s reputation, this Atlantic Titan War mumbo-jumbo could be Lake’s myth.

For certain, though, the Sixers will compete for attendance with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. 

The 76ers are one of the few NBA franchises to claim this dubious distinction—fighting with the local hockey team to fill up their venue. In cities like San Antonio, the Spurs would smash any prospective NHL franchise, where attendance is concerned.

If Harris’ ownership group boosts attendance for the 76ers, then it’s all good. Being a Pennsylvania native, he should be able to rally his home slices to the games. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sixers experience similar growth in attendance as Apollo Global’s first quarter 2011 report. Harris seems hungry to return the 76ers to their glory days, so the city where basketball was king could return to the throne—and I don’t mean Zeus.’ 

Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jr. played Zeus in Hulk Hogan’s No Holds Barred. He also played the bully on the block, Deebo, in the Friday trilogy featuring hip-hop superstar, Ice Cube.

The 76ers' NBA championship runs have been as cold as ice since 2001, but Philadelphia could become the new bullies on the block in the Atlantic. It’ll take a lot for this to happen, but I’ll be watching and reporting.

What this new group of owners means for the city and for the franchise—if they can take Philly back to the NBA’s mountain top—is yet to be determined. There could be a new NBA world order on the horizon in Penn.

I’m interested to hear (read) what the world thinks. Weigh in and stay tuned for future reports on what it all means. Don’t forget to catch me next time on Lake’s Philadelphia story.

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