As Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer work to build their own arena in Center City, they’re also looking to expand their sports franchise holdings to the NFL — and rumors have surfaced of a potential new target.
Yes, the same team that dashed the Eagles’ dreams at a perfect season this year — from the same city where many say a downtown basketball arena decimated Chinatown culture.
The Commanders are near and dear to Harris’ heart, and the current ownership group is in hot water.
The 58-year-old billionaire, a private equity investor and leveraged buyout specialist, amassed his fortune as cofounder of Apollo Management Services after attending Wharton and Harvard Business School.
But he grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, (a suburb of DC). And now his childhood team is officially up for grabs, after a sexual misconduct investigation spurred Commanders owner Daniel Snyder — though not directly implicated in any wrongdoing — to sell the team.
There’s been no confirmation of actual communication between the Commanders and the 76ers ownership group, but Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE) has “collected a wealth of data” on the situation, per the PhillyVoice.
What’s clear is that HBSE is actively looking to add to their expanding portfolio. Here’s a look at where else they have an ownership stake — or recently attempted to buy one.
Philadelphia 76ers, NBA
Josh Harris completed a deal to purchase the 76ers from Comcast-Spectacor in July 2011 for a reported $280 million, per ESPN. (The sale didn’t include the Wells Fargo Center, hence why HBSE is in the market for a new arena.)
“We are honored to have the opportunity to be affiliated with this storied franchise,” Harris said at the time. “As a basketball fan who attended college in Philadelphia, and with family roots here, I have always felt a strong connection to this city and the 76ers.”
David Blitzer, a private equity investor with the Blackstone Group, partnered with him on the deal, and the two combined to form Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. Other members of the investment group included Oscar-winning actor Will Smith and Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin, who recently sold his 10% stake over a “conflict of interest” with a potential expansion into sports betting.
Under HBSE’s leadership, the Sixers have grown. The team opened a 125,000-sq.-ft. state-of-the-art practice facility on the Camden waterfront in 2016. They followed it up in 2019 by building Chase Fieldhouse, a 2,500-seat arena in Wilmington that’s home to the G League Delaware Blue Coats.
The 76ers franchise is valued at $3.15 billion, per Forbes.
New Jersey Devils, NHL
Harris and Blitzer purchased the New Jersey Devils — the Flyers’ rival in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division — in 2019. Including the lease on the Prudential Center the sale went for a reported $320 million.
HBSE saw a business opportunity with the Devils, a struggling franchise which has qualified for the postseason only once since 2012. The Prudential Center — a $375 million multi-purpose indoor arena — was considered the crown jewel of the deal due its capacity for marquee concerts and sporting events. The 16-year-old building has served a key role in ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Newark.
After the purchase, speculation arose that HBSE was preparing to move the 76ers up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark, but Harris squashed the rumors: “The Sixers are staying in Philly.”
Crystal Palace FC, EPL
Harris and Blitzer also own a 36% stake in Crystal Palace FC. of the Premier League, the highest level of soccer in England.
They serve as general partners, alongside part-owner Steve Parish, after completing a purchase in December 2015. Billy Penn broke down the intricacies of that deal in 2018, right after the Sixers announced they would be using Crystal Palace’s training facilities for an international game scheduled in London.
Prior to purchasing Crystal Palace, HBSE had been rumored to be in talks to acquire Aston Villa of the Premier League. Harris had reportedly been “talking numbers” with former owner Randy Lerner, but those talks faded and the football club was sold for $86 million in 2016.
Real Salt Lake, MLS
Blitzer serves as co-owner of Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer. The team plays in the Western Conference and won the 2009 MLS Cup. Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith of Smith Entertainment Group, is Blitzer’s partner here — Harris has no controlling interest.
Delaware Blue Coats, NBA G League
HBSE acquired the professional basketball franchise known as the Utah Flash in April 2013 and relocated it to Delaware to serve as the G League affiliate for the 76ers. Originally named the Delaware 87ers, they were rebranded as the Delaware Blue Coats in 2018, andthen moved to Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington.
Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Harris and Blitzer acquired a stake of less than 5% in the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Erik Schtazker. Estimates put the purchase price at $140 million, although that number has never been confirmed. They are considered “passive investors” with no intention of getting involved with football operations.
Attempted: Denver Broncos, NFL
Harris made overtures to buy the Denver Broncos last May on behalf of HBSE. He traveled to Denver to meet with bank and transaction lawyers, per Mike Klis of 9 News, and toured Broncos headquarters at Mile High Stadium as well as checking out their practice facilities.
HBSE was one of five finalists, but decided not to get into a bidding war against the Walton-Penner Group. The group, which includes former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Walmart heir Rob Walton, eventually paid a record $4.65 billion for the Broncos in June.
Obviously, HBSE is currently interested in owning an NFL franchise.
Attempted: Chelsea FC, EPL
HBSE made a highly publicized run at Chelsea FC of the English Premier League in March 2022, and was a finalist to acquire the famed West London soccer club. But the bidding contest was won by Todd Boehly, part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who paid $5.4 billion.
Attempted: New York Mets, MLB
Bloomberg reported in June 2020 that HBSE was “exploring a bid” for the New York Mets — a major NL East rival to the Phillies. Those talks were in the early stages at the time, when principal owner Steve Cohen was banned from running the franchise for two years following his involvement in a hedge fund scandal. Now Cohen is back to running the Mets, after buying the franchise for a reported $2.4 billion, with a 95% ownership stake.
Attempting now: A Center City arena
After a couple years searching around for a location for a new arena, the 76ers made a big play to build in Center City.
In June 2022, Harris and Blitzer announced they’d partnered with real estate pro David Adler to form 76 Devcorp — a firm with the singular goal of constructing 76 Place at 10th and Market streets, where the end of the Fashion District mall stands. The plan calls for it to open by the time the Sixers’ Wells Fargo Center lease ends in 2031.
The proposal has received a lot of community pushback, with the opposition centered in Chinatown. The neighborhood begins steps from the edge of the arena’s development, and residents and business owners fear it would crush the small shops and cultural fabric of the area.