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By PHIL JASNER
jasnerp@phillynews.com

HERE'S A NUMBER worth knowing as you try to follow developments surrounding the increasingly speculated potential sale of the 76ers by Comcast-Spectacor:

By NBA policy, the most money a possible new owner can finance in a purchase is $150 million.

That's worth knowing because much of the speculation in recent weeks has indicated a sale could be in the range of $450 million, which would be the largest price in league history.

It would mean that a new owner would have to provide at least $300 million up front.

It also might dissuade some of the potential suitors who have emerged in the wake of various media reports, or force others to seek to assemble a group to pursue a sale.

"If a consortium is buying, it takes a lot longer to do the financial due diligence," said David Carter, founder of Sports Business Group, a consulting firm in Redondo Beach, Calif. "In the old days, it would be one affluent owner selling to another affluent person. [These transactions] are much more involved than they once were."

If the team were sold, the new owner would have to deal with a player payroll of more than $60 million and declining attendance, among other issues. Ownership of the Wachovia Center, home to the Sixers and the Flyers, would not be included, but deals have been struck in the past without an arena: the Boston Celtics went for $360 million in 2002 without an arena; the Seattle SuperSonics and the WNBA Seattle Storm sold in July for $350 million without the building that houses them.

In 2004, Robert Sarver purchased the Phoenix Suns, the WNBA Phoenix Mercury, the Arena Football League Arizona Rattlers, and Sports and Entertainment Services, the company that operates US Airways Center, for an NBA-record $401 million.

(As a frame of reference, the Sixers' current ownership spent $130 million to acquire the team from Harold Katz in April 1996; Katz bought the team from the late F. Eugene Dixon for about $12 million in July 1981.)

The Sixers finished last season 38-44, out of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and have done little to improve the roster.

The only additions, to this point, have been first-round draft choice Rodney Carney and second-rounders Bobby Jones and Edin Bavcic; Matt Barnes and Michael Bradley were permitted to leave in free agency.

Whether a deal is finally made is problematic, but Eric Blumenfeld, a prominent Philadelphia real estate developer, said he has written a letter and had conversations with Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York-based sports investment firm that was hired by Comcast-Spectacor to deal with potential suitors. Blumenfeld is among a number of people to have contacted Galatioto.

"You can't buy something when everything is perfect," said Blumenfeld, 43, a Sixers season ticketholder. "If a team has issues, it's a team with opportunities."

Blumenfield has developed Lofts 640 on North Broad Street, and his other projects include the Marine Club, at Broad and Washington; Abbotts Square, 2nd and South streets; and the Cigar Factory, 4th Street and Girard Avenue.

Last week, the Inquirer identified managing directors Ian Berg and Wayne Kimmel, of ETF Venture Funds, King of Prussia, in partnership with Andrew Barroway, the managing partner of Schiffrin & Barroway, a Radnor law firm, as one potential suitor. Another was identified as Mitchell Morgan, head of Morgan Properties, of King of Prussia.

Wayne Kimmel, one of the directors of ETF Venture Funds, declined to comment in an e-mail response. The Daily News did not receive responses from Schiffrin & Barroway, or from Mitchell Morgan.

Potential suitors who contact Galatioto are required to sign non-disclosure agreements. Blumenfeld had not reached that point when he spoke with the Daily News.

An NBA spokesman said commissioner David Stern was not available for comment on the situation. Comcast-Spectacor refers all inquiries to Galatioto.

Blumenfeld also approached the Sixers about the possibility of a new practice facility. The Sixers, who have an existing lease on their facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, declined. That contact, though, seemed to pique Blumenfeld's interest in perhaps trying to put together an ownership group.

There had been earlier reports that the asking price for the team was $500 million. As recently as December, Forbes magazine listed the Sixers with a value of $351 million, 11th-highest in the league.

Ultimately, the obvious value of a franchise is what someone is willing to pay for it.

"There is a desire among certain people to own a team, for the prestige, for the 'trophy factor,' to have something to show the world you acquired," said Morris Gocial, a certified public accountant and forensic accountant who specializes in business valuations.

Gocial, a partner in the firm of Gocial Gerstein LLC, of Jenkintown and Voorhees, N.J., said: "People pay enormous amounts of money for the prestige of owing that trophy. Even if there's a negative cash flow, if the value of the company grows, it makes up for that."

Clearly, the value of NBA franchises has gone up, up and up.

"If you look at the past and then project into the future," Gocial said, "the values will continue to skyrocket."

Carter, of Sports Business Group, took a similar approach.

"It's such a remarkable business, trying to capture the essence of value in a vacuum," he said. "The process is far more dramatic than anyone can capture at any one time, but people would be interested in a bellwether franchise such as the Sixers and things going on in the business world. Over the past few months, the Blazers came off the market, the Sonics were sold.

"All of that drives the price. Even if you come up with a [value] that makes sense, a franchise is inherently worth what someone feels they can do with it and they might pay more than what pencils out on paper."

Comcast-Spectacor resolutely has stood by an Aug. 4 statement from chairman Ed Snider, in which he said: "We have been approached by multiple parties interested in purchasing the Philadelphia 76ers, particularly in the wake of recent press speculation. While this is not the first time we have received some inquiries, we have decided to engage the services of Galatioto Sports Partners, an industry-leading sports-investment firm, to help us evaluate our strategic alternatives, including a sale or a new partnership. We emphasize that no decision has been made to sell the 76ers."

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