The sale of the Philadelphia 76ers has been finalized and the new owners had a press conference on Tuesday. They rolled out the new ownership group – and surprise, surprise: Will Smith is down.
They’re headed by Joshua Harris, a New York-based leverage buyout specialist who has family in Philly and went to school there at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. At 46 years old, he was worth $1.46 billion as of September, according to Forbes. The ownership group does include a Philadelphia native besides Smith. Adam Aron, the former chairman and CEO of Vail Resort, is the chief executive officer and is from nearby Abington.
The owners are also unique in that their circle includes former NBA agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien, the first former agent to own a team, as well as Indonesian media magnate Erick Thohir, the first Asian investor in an NBA team.
But Smith is the one that’s “West Philadelphia born and raised,” and he’s the one that they figure will bring the casual Philly fan in. The new owners have announced that they are slashing ticket prices in half and are bringing fun and entertainment back to the Wells Fargo Center, yet all people are talking about is The Fresh Prince.
However, neither he nor his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith – also named as an investor – are talking. Smith declined comment through his PR rep.
This differs greatly from the role that Jay-Z is playing as a minority owner of the New Jersey (but soon-to-be Brooklyn) Nets. Jay-Z does press conferences, woos players to the team and has promised to open their new arena in Brooklyn with a series of concerts. Jay-Z is often seen courtside at games with his wife, Beyonce, chatting it up with celebrities, players, fans and media. He has become synonymous with the Nets, and there are even people out there that don’t realize that he is a minority owner.
For the last 15 years or so, Smith has attended Sixers games a few times a year. Even though he has season tickets on the floor, the team usually puts him courtside while his friends occupy his seats. However, his membership in this ownership group comes as a surprise, and it is still unclear what role, if any, he will play as part owner. He certainly hasn’t tried to woo any players into South Philly, and that’s besides the fact that he lives in Hollywood, 3000 miles away.
Nelly, the rapper out of St. Louis, similarly became a minority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2004. While Charlotte and St. Louis aren’t exactly across the street from each other, Nelly was often spotted at their games. The majority shareholder back then was BET founder Bob Johnson. The team had the gimmick of being the first black-owned franchise, and the personable Nelly served as good public relations. Although he never quite took on the role of Jay-Z, it was no secret that he was a part of the team.
Nelly’s involvement with the team ended in 2010 when Michael Jordan became the majority owner. MJ’s not much of a hip-hop guy, and it’s easy to see him not wanting that kind of image attached to his team.
Keeping the trend going, in 2005 Usher joined the Cleveland Cavaliers ownership group, headed by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert. Usher came in promising big things as far as entertainment, and for a whole year, his music was seemingly all they played in the arena pre-game, post-game and during timeouts.
A year later, Usher was nowhere to be found in the arena. He stopped coming to games, and …..