- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia 76ers have been sold to New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris, ending Comcast-Spectacor’s 15-year run of ownership that included a trip to the NBA finals.

The tentative deal, which does not include ownership of their building, the Wells Fargo Center, must be approved by the NBA. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal Wednesday comes with the league in the midst of a lockout. The start of the 2011-12 season in October is in jeopardy.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to be affiliated with this storied franchise,” Harris said in a statement. “As a basketball fan who attended college in Philadelphia, and with family roots here, I have always felt a strong connection to this City and the 76ers.”

The new ownership also includes David Blitzer, a senior managing director of The Blackstone Group, along with other members of the investor group Art Wrubel and Jason Levien.

“We are excited to become associated with this iconic team and to have the chance to serve the great city of Philadelphia and its loyal basketball fans,” Blitzer said.

The deal is expected to close later this year.

Comcast-Spectacor, led by chairman Ed Snider, purchased the Sixers from Harold Katz on April 24, 1996. Comcast-Spectacor also owns the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.

Harris is one of three founders of Apollo Global Management, a publicly listed alternative investment manager. He leads a group that includes former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien.

The 76ers were valued this year by Forbes at $330 million, 17th in the NBA, and have a TV deal with cable station Comcast SportsNet through 2029.

Harris co-founded Apollo Global Management in 1990. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and a master’s degree from the Harvard Business School.

His group is purchasing a team that hasn’t won a championship since 1983. Under Snider’s ownership, the 76ers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA finals.

The Sixers have won only one playoff series since 2001 and have been stuck in mediocrity for most of the last decade. They haven’t had a winning record since 2004-05, but have made the playoffs three times since.

This past season, the Sixers won 41 games and stretched the Miami Heat to a five-game playoff series in Doug Collins’ first season as coach.

“We look forward to helping the 76ers organization build on this past season’s accomplishments in the years ahead,” Harris said. “The ownership group also looks forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Comcast-Spectacor.”

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.

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