On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers hiring of Jerry Colangelo signaled that ownership had become frustrated with the pace of the rebuild. It was the first radical change Josh Harris has made that didn't involve players. But there may be more change coming down the line, and that could mean Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer selling the franchise.
The two just became major investors in the Crystal Palace Football Club in London and their strategy is simple: According to a business associate of Blitzer, it’s to "get to know the market,’’ as they get a footing in London and see how things operate there for their bid to land an NFL expansion team in London.
"They’re more interested in getting the NFL in London than they are in the NBA,’’ the source said. "Their No. 1 goal is to get the NFL team in London. They want to flip the Sixers anyway.’’
NFL rules prohibit team owners from having a majority ownership of a different sports team outside of the city where their NFL franchise plays their home games, so Harris would therefore be forced to sell the Sixers (and the New Jersey Devils) if he were to place a football team in London.
The possibility of Sixers ownership flipping the team after a couple years has always been an underlying fear, but Harris has stated publicly that he plans to keep the team on multiple occasions. In October he told CSNPhilly:
"I expect to happily be involved with the Sixers for many, many years," Harris said. "There are no plans to sell [the team]. Our ultimate goal has not changed and that’s to bring an NBA championship to Philly."
Frankly, the timing would be a just a tad bit bizarre if Harris did want to sell the team. He's invested a large amount of money into a new practice facility for the Sixers that's slated to open up in August 2016, a move that would make it seem like he is invested in Philadelphia's long-term success.
However, he's already increased the value of the Sixers by 49% since taking the team over, despite the team being a very public disaster. Couple that with what's becoming an arms race to establish an NFL franchise in London, and now would be as good a time as ever for ownership to decide to pull the trigger.
If they do so, Harris may not have to look far to find a new owner. According to CBS's Ken Berger, Jerry Colangelo's deal with the Sixers likely includes a stake in the team:
Silver spoke with Colangelo to gage his interest, made the introduction to Harris, and then stepped aside, league sources said. Silver is not even privy to the details of Colangelo's contract, which league sources speculate includes an ownership stake in addition to control over basketball decisions.
Colangelo has a net worth of $300 million, and has owned other sports franchises in the past, including the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks. Obviously, Colangelo would have to find other investors to come up with enough money to meet the team's likely high asking price (if it ever gets to that point), but it's not hard to envision a scenario where the 76-year-old picks up a large share in the team if/when Harris and Blitzer decide to move on.
It seems as though fans are still largely in support of the current ownership group, but whisking away to London while leaving the team in its current state would be a really bad look for Harris and Blitzer. For the franchise's sake, hopefully this is all just talk.