The new Sixers owners were introduced at the Palestra today, using the phrase “world class and cutting edge” to describe their approach.
And they wasted little time in putting their plan in motion, announcing a “50 percent or more” cut in single-game ticket prices for just under 9,000 seats at the Wells Fargo Center. The team will also announced a new marketing slogan and unveiled plans to solicit direct fan suggestions and comments via the Internet.
The ownership group includes four native Philadelphians and six graduates of Penn, including the majority owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer.
The new group took control of the team last night at 11:59 p.m., ending a lengthy process of negotiation and approval. The sides agreed to a deal believed to be worth $330 million for the team in July. The NBA Board of Governors approved the sale late last week, leading to today’s announcement.
“I am going to be a great fan,” Harris said. “I’m going to be excited when we win and upset when we lose. We are going to try to be rational about how we run the team. It’s pretty simple. We want to be world class and cutting edge up and down the organization in everything we do. We want to reflect well on us, be positive in the community. On the court, off the court.
“In some ways, the fact that the deal took a little bit of time allowed us to get ahead. You’ll be seeing over the coming days that we are going to try to improve how we work as a team and work in the Philadelphia community.”
As founder of Apolo Global Management, Harris has made his fortune, estimated at $1.5 billion in distressed properties, although he winced at the notion that the Sixers would be described as distressed. He said the key for the business plan, and something he has had success with in other fields, is to separate one asset from what he termed a “broader package of assets.” The Sixers will be a tenant at the Wells Fargo Center and have a broadcast agreement with Comcast SportsNet.
“When we have done that in the past, with other business, that singular focus and bringing everyone together breathes new life into a lot of situations,” he said. “In many cases, the businesses we have owned clearly don’t have as much as media attention as the Sixers do. That is something we are going to have to get used to. We are going into this with eyes wide open and willing to accept that. Another difference is the talent side of the business in terms of having the people that are very high profile that also are very well compensated and also make news being part of the situation. A lot of times we buy boring businesses that you have never heard of.
“Clearly, I am not doing this for Apollo, doing this for me personally. This reflects personally on me, I am going to live and breathe this, come down to the games, be involved in the city of Philadelphia. I come down to Penn periodically. This will give me a chance to reinvigorate my relationships.”
Harris was asked how he could turn around a franchise that has largely lost money since its run to the NBA Finals in 2001.
“We’re lucky enough to buy the third most winning franchise in basketball history,” he said. “We are getting a storied franchise at a time where we were able to get what we think is an appropriate deal for the team. We think we are able to participate in breathing new life in to the team.
“The team has been less connected with its fans and as a result was not generating revenue and selling tickets as we think we can do. It wasn’t realizing its potential. There are lots of things we can do by improving the financial situation of the team connecting with fans, making it a great experience. We have to win. We have a team and executives very capable of doing that … This is a really exciting business opportunity in addition to being exciting to be part of a storied team.”
Harris said he will remain New York, but “you can expect to see my smiling face at many of the games. All of the owners will be down here with me, working on the team. They are doing it because they want to be involved in this. This is not just a financial investment. This is going to be my night job, if you will.”
The new owners made four announcements:
* Ticket prices for individual game tickets on just under 9,000 seats at the Wells Fargo Center will be cut by 50 percent or more for every single game. “This is not a sale or promotion,” Aron said. “These are our new ticket prices. Period. Full stop.” He added, “Simply stated, price will not be an obstacle in preventing Philadelphia sports fans from enjoying NBA basketball in person. On game nights, come to our arena, guys and girls. Bring your friends; parents bring your kids. Our house is now your house.” Aron said the team is not planning to cut prices for season ticketholders. “Our current season ticketholders already enjoy some significant price discounts off the price of their tickets,” he said. “The current season ticketholders are doing extremely well.” He said the intention of the price cuts is to marry ticket prices to demand.
* The team will take out full-page advertisements in the Daily News and Inquirer tomorrow that it is calling an open letter to Philadelphia sports fans. “In it we will state our philosophy about leading the Sixers, a manifesto of sorts,” Aron said. He said the team would solicit fan suggestions and comments via www.newsixersowner.com. He said he would personally read all the suggestions. The 1,776 comments deemed to be the best would receive a free ticket to a Sixers game. “Being the new kids on the block, we intend to truly listen to our fans,” Aron said.
* The team announced a new marketing slogan. “Philadelphia 76ers: Passionate, Intense, Proud.” “These words have been swirling around the Sixers for decades. We think they perfectly encapsulate what Philadelphia sports fans and Sixers are all about. It truly defines our brand.
* Aron also talked about plans to improve the fan experience. He said the team will announce a “series of specific announcements of exactly how we will be enhancing and improving what our fans will enjoy when they enjoy Sixers games in person. We can’t wait to rise to the challenge.” We will not be selling the 76ers on the basis of price. We will work tirelessly every waking moment to offer Philaldelphians, exciting, winning basketball. We intend to literally transform the Sixers fan experience on game nights at the Wells Fargo Center.”