Will Smith Rumors
So maybe the new owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, a partnership group led by buyout financier Joshua Harris, are banking on the distressed economy and the ongoing N.B.A. lockout makes this a good time to buy distressed property. The deal, which started in April, with Comcast-Spectator, was approved by the N.B.A. Board of Governors and completed Monday. The terms of the sale were not disclosed. The new ownership group, which includes minority partners such as rapper/actor Will Smith and his wife, actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, is not wasting time making changes during their first day in charge: General Manager Ed Stefanski has been fired, ticket prices have been slashed, and a new team slogan was unveiled during a Tuesday press conference in Philadelphia. Harris announced Rod Thorn will be staying as team president, and Doug Collins remains as head coach. “We were lucky enough when we bought the team to have two fantastic people doing one job,” Harris said. “We are going to stay with Rod. There are no current plans to replace Ed.”
Sources say that the Indonesian media magnate Erick Thohir is also joining the Sixers as the first Asian investor in an NBA team. “We are honored to have the opportunity to be affiliated with this storied franchise,” Harris said in July. “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.”
The 76ers’ new ownership team includes one of the city’s favorite sons: Will Smith. Sources with knowledge of the sale agreement told ESPN.com that the ownership group that will be introduced later Tuesday includes Philly native Smith as a minority shareholder. The presence of Smith in an ownership consortium headlined by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris, David Blitzer and former NBA agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien means that the Atlantic Division now houses two giants from the entertainment industry. Named by Newsweek in April 2007 as the most powerful actor in Hollywood, Smith joins the Sixers in a capacity akin to music mogul Jay-Z’s role with the New Jersey Nets. And Levien is believed to be the first former agent to be part of an NBA ownership group since Lewis Schaffel served as the original managing partner of the Miami Heat.