Two West Coast sports executives are suing Comcast-Spectacor L.P. to collect a $2 million finder's fee that they contend is owed them for helping with the sale of the win-challenged and financially ailing 76ers.
Robert Whitsitt, the former president of the Portland Trail Blazers, and Thomas Shine filed the federal breach-of-contract lawsuit in Philadelphia on Tuesday, contending they introduced Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider and general counsel Philip Weinberg to sports agent Jason Levien, who became part of the group that eventually purchased the Sixers.
The group, led by New York-based leveraged-buyout specialist Joshua Harris, completed the deal in October for a reported $280 million.
In their suit, Whitsitt and Shine say that Comcast-Spectacor denied the finder's fee because Levien, a former general counsel and assistant general manager of the Sacramento Kings, was not the controlling partner and a fee was paid to someone else.
Comcast-Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman said Wednesday: "We have received notice of his claims, which we firmly believe are without merit, and we will vigorously defend ourselves in court."
Although Comcast-Spectacor sold the Sixers, the company retained ownership of the Flyers and is redeveloping the former site of the Spectrum into an entertainment-restaurant district in South Philadelphia.
Whitsitt is a former financial adviser to Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and the former president of the Seattle Seahawks and the Trail Blazers, teams both owned by the billionaire Allen. Shine is a senior vice president with Reebok International Ltd. and a sports-industry investor.
The suit says Shine and Whitsitt first met with Snider in Montecito, Calif., to talk about the Sixers in July 2008. "At that meeting, Snider confirmed that the 76ers had been for sale for years as the franchise was losing money, and that no buyer had been found," according to the court document.
Comcast-Spectacor had an agreement with Galatioto Sports Partners of New York to find a purchaser. But the suit contends Snider told Whitsitt and Shine he would pay a separate commission, in addition to a commission paid Galatioto, if they found buyers.
Shine introduced Snider and Weinberg to Levien and another potential investor, Happy Walters, over lunch in Philadelphia, according to the suit.