The Philadelphia 76ers’ wild offseason of uncertainty continued after CEO Scott O’Neil stepped down. The team announced the decision in a press release by saying the Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE) executive was pursuing “new opportunities.” O’Neil had been with the organization for eight “successful” years.
O’Neil is considered a marketing and business guru by his peers in the industry. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Villanova University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School. He has been credited for turning the Sixers from a single-entity team into an all-encompassing sports and entertainment franchise that spans two professional teams, an e-sports business, a leading arena and entertainment business, and growth and venture investments across sports technology.
Some other accomplishments include striking the NBA’s first jersey patch deal (StubHub, 2016), opening a new Sixers practice facility in Camden, and helping the team finish first in attendance (20,441 in 2019).
“HBSE is the best organization I have ever been a part of, with the highest degree of difficulty I have ever encountered, and the most fun I have ever had, because every day brought a new opportunity to learn and develop,” O’Neil said in a statement. “This company has grown through a culture of extraordinary teammates willing to be innovative, having the discipline to do the work, and courage to lead from the front. While I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time here, I am even more excited to build, grow, and drive my next platform.”
“I cannot overstate how much we value Scott’s enormous contributions to the company,” HBSE co-founder Josh Harris said in a statement, “and how grateful I am for his leadership and partnership in creating a best-in-class culture at HBSE. We know he will find great success in whatever he chooses to accomplish in the future, and we will always be among his biggest advocates.”
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Harris and Blitzer Took Over in 2011
Josh Harris and David Blitzer — co-founders and managing partners of HBSE — won a $280 million bid for the purchase of the Philadelphia 76ers from Comcast Spectacor in 2011. They also purchased a majority stake in the New Jersey Devils of the NHL in 2013. HBSE has overseen an interesting time in Sixers franchise history, including the post-Allen Iverson and Trust the Process years.
O’Neil entered the fold in 2013 and replaced Adam Aron who remained on board as a co-owner and board member. Prior to arriving in Philadelphia, the 50-year-old executive was the president of Madison Square Garden (MSG) sports and oversaw the business operations of the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, and New York Liberty. O’Neil quickly picked up on how to do things the Philly way upon being hired.
“We are going to try to live the values of Philadelphia,” O’Neil told the Inquirer in 2013. “The city was built on grit, hard work, and toughness and passion. It’s not going to always be easy, and it’s not always going to go right, and it’s not always going to go our way.”
Successor Has Work Cut Out for Them
The Sixers’ new CEO won’t have to deal with the tough roster decisions ahead. Those problems rest with president Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand. However, he or she will take on the unenviable task of brokering a new arena deal for the Sixers and scoring the NBA All-Star Game for Philadelphia. According to CNBC, the Sixers and city officials could make a bid for the 2026 event. No proposal has been submitted at this time.