It looks as if Joshua Harris has some money to spend.
The 46-year-old billionaire and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School is a senior managing director at Apollo Global Management, a New York-based investment firm that was hit hard by the Wall Street meltdown but has bounced back strong.
So why not pick up an NBA team while life is good?
Harris, a leveraged buyout specialist with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion, reportedly is leading a small investment team that could be days away from reaching an agreement to purchase the 76ers from Comcast-Spectacor.
Joining him are investor David Blitzer, another Wharton grad now based in the Blackstone Group's London office, and Jason Levien, a former agent who resigned last year as a Sacramento Kings executive.
Harris was traveling in Asia yesterday and couldn't be reached for comment, according to a representative. Blitzer did not return messages.
Forbes Media executive editor Mike Ozanian said Harris is a heavy hitter who likely has the cash to close the deal quickly.
"He's a serious player, and the attraction with someone like that is they come in with a sizable amount of equity. It doesn't have to be a highly leveraged deal. The deal could be expedited," Ozanian said. "He's serious, and he's not somebody who's going to necessarily have to rely on putting together a whole syndicate of people."
Joseph Mahan, assistant professor of sport and recreation management at Temple University, said he's encouraged by the fact that both Harris and Blitzer have some ties to Philadelphia, even if it was during their college years.
"It certainly can't hurt them - the fact that they are connected in some way to the city and that they appear to have deep pockets," Mahan said. "That's what you need: an infusion of cash into the franchise to make it a winner."
Harris, who earned his MBA from Harvard Business School, co-founded Apollo in 1990. He previously worked in the mergers and acquisitions group of Philadelphia-based Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. He lives in New York City and is a married father of four, according to Forbes.
Harris remains a member of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton undergraduate executive board, according to his company bio.
"It might calm the fears of the Philly faithful if you have people that are at least somewhat tied to Philadelphia and understand Philadelphia," Mahan said. "If they can speak to that, I think they will have the chance to be accepted more quickly."
Harris, known as a shrewd investor, could be looking to buy the 76ers to cash in on a renegotiated cable deal, or benefit from a potential lockout with the NBA's labor contract expiring July 1, Ozanian said. The Sixers' deal with Comcast SportsNet does not expire until 2029. According to Forbes, the team is valued at $330 million, 17th in the NBA, and lost $1.2 million last year. The Sixers were 25th in attendance this past season.
"The team hasn't been drawing all that great, and that's why they're losing money," Ozanian said. "But this is the type of team that could be helped if there's a lockout and what ensues is a lower salary cap and a hard salary cap. That could help a team like the Sixers."
Blitzer attended Wharton at roughly the same time as Harris. According to his company bio, Blitzer has been with Blackstone since 1991 and has been involved in the company's investments in Spirit Group, SULO, Allied Waste, Aspen Insurance Holdings, Houghton Mifflin, Universal Orlando, Centerplate, Cadillac Fairview, Edward J. DeBartolo Corp., Southern Cross, NHP, Orangina and United Biscuits.
Levien seems to have the most obvious ties to the game, having negotiated several significant NBA contracts. He represented Luol Deng when he signed a 6-year, $80 million deal with Chicago in 2008, Kevin Martin when he signed a $55 million deal with Sacramento in 2007, and Udonis Haslem when he signed a $33 million deal with Miami in 2005.
Levien was named general counsel and assistant GM of the Kings in 2008. He was promoted to senior vice president in March 2010, but resigned in July. He had been touted at one point as a possible successor to Geoff Petrie as the Kings' general manager and his name was among those reportedly under consideration for the GM job in Phoenix last summer, according to ESPN.com. *