Officials coy on possible sale of 76ers

A person familiar with the deal says the Philadelphia 76ers could be sold within the week.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the deal to sell the team to a group led by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris is not yet complete.

Comcast-Spectacor, led by chairman Ed Snider, has owned the Sixers since 1996, but the group’s chief operating officer confirmed Tuesday there are ongoing discussions about the team’s future.

The person familiar with the deal said the Harris-led group was not the only bidder but is now the lead bidder, adding the deal has been in the works for several months.

ESPN.com, citing unidentified sources, first reported the Sixers were close to being sold to Harris. The site noted another investor included in the deal is former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien.

The deal would need to be approved by the league’s Board of Governors.

Comcast is the nation’s largest pay TV provider and the majority owner of media conglomerate NBC Universal. Comcast also owns the Philadelphia 76ers and the Philadelphia Flyers and the stadium where both teams play, the Wells Fargo Center.

NBC, now controlled by Comcast, retained its hold on U.S. Olympic television rights Tuesday in a four-games deal through 2020 worth $4.38 billion.

Harris is one of three founders of Apollo Global Management, a publicly listed alternative investment manager. Harris, through an Apollo spokeswoman, declined comment.

The Associated Press left a message for Snider seeking comment.

The 76ers were valued this year by Forbes at $330 million, 17th in the NBA.

The team has won only one playoff series since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA finals. This year, the Sixers won 41 games and stretched the Miami Heat to a five-game playoff series in Doug Collins’ first season as coach.

The Sixers routinely lag behind the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers in attendance and attention in a crowded Philadelphia market. From the first year the company owned both teams, Snider has fought the popular notion that he favored the Flyers over the Sixers. Snider founded the Flyers in the 1960s and led them to Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.

The Sixers haven’t won a championship since 1983.

”I guess it’s the difference of having your own baby or adopting your child,” Snider said years ago in an interview with the AP. ”I’ve adopted the Sixers and I love the Sixers. I really do. But hockey, I started from scratch.”

The Sixers’ ownership group has explored selling the team before. In 2006, Comcast-Spectacor hired the sports investment firm Galatioto Sports Partners to review possible sale proposals and evaluate future strategies, which could have included selling the team. Comcast-Spectacor never said which suitors were interested in buying the team, nor did they reveal a potential selling price.