It was solely two years in the past that personal fairness titan Josh Harris seemed to be stepping again from deal-making, shifting on after Marc Rowan was picked to succeed Leon Black atop Apollo World Administration Inc.
“It’s time for me to begin the subsequent chapter of my profession, the place I’ll focus full-time on the platforms I’ve created exterior of the agency,” Harris mentioned on the time. That included his Harris Blitzer Sports activities & Leisure, which he runs with Blackstone Inc. govt David Blitzer.
But when Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea FC went up on the market final 12 months, Harris’s group made the ultimate spherical, however the English Premier League membership went to Todd Boehly, who had backing from personal fairness agency Clearlake Capital. The NFL’s Denver Broncos hit the market across the similar time, and Harris was once more concerned, however was outmatched by Rob Walton’s $59 billion fortune.
With the Washington Commanders, Harris made positive one other mega-billionaire wouldn’t beat him out.
A bunch led by Harris is near a deal to purchase the NFL franchise for $6 billion, a report quantity for any skilled sports activities workforce. Severe rivals together with Jeff Bezos, the world’s third richest individual, weighed bids however finally dropped out.
The deal has but to be executed and will nonetheless fall by, and any settlement would additionally want approval from different house owners. Nonetheless, ought to it’s finalized, it will add a crown jewel to his sports activities empire and put Harris in rarefied air among the many billionaire class.
“This can be a main advance for Josh Harris,” mentioned Marc Ganis, co-founder of Sportscorp, a Chicago-based advisory agency. “They discovered so much from the experiences that weren’t profitable. Possibly crucial they discovered is it’s important to pay up — there are not any bargains.”
A spokesperson for Harris declined to remark.
Harris, 58, has an estimated internet price of $7.7 billion, in response to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. A former wrestler on the College of Pennsylvania who went to highschool in Washington, nearly all of his fortune is derived from shareholdings and earnings at Apollo, however he has owned sports activities franchises for greater than a decade. He has additionally constructed his personal funding agency, 26North Companions.
By means of Harris Blitzer Sports activities & Leisure, the duo have stakes within the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Individually, in addition they personal stakes in Crystal Palace FC of the English Premier League and the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers — the latter they must promote ought to they finalize the Commanders buy.
Harris purchased the 76ers in 2011 for $290 million, with the workforce in rebuilding mode for the primary 5 years. The mantra for Philadelphia followers: “Belief the method.”
For some time, the outlook was grim. The workforce completed 10-72 within the 2015-16 season, the third-worst NBA season in league historical past.
However with the addition of star heart Joel Embiid, efficiency started to show round. The 76ers have made the playoffs in every of the previous 5 seasons and completed third within the Jap Convention this 12 months.
The 76ers have now offered out greater than 225 straight residence video games and constructed one of many NBA’s largest season ticket bases at 14,000, up from 3,500 in 2011.
“He and Blitzer have been distinctive house owners,” Ganis mentioned. “They took an NBA workforce that was in an excellent market however that was nearly irrelevant, and turned it right into a workforce nearly as related to Philadelphia because the Eagles.”
Harris mentioned in an interview with Bloomberg earlier this 12 months in Philadelphia that he’s been a fan of the workforce since his freshman 12 months on the College of Pennsylvania a long time in the past.
“This can be a metropolis that holds you accountable,” Harris mentioned. “For those who do it for them, they arrive out for you.”
Two years later in 2013, Harris purchased the Devils hockey workforce from former Lehman Brothers govt Jeff Vanderbeek — together with the Prudential Middle in Newark, New Jersey.
Considered one of his first orders of enterprise: warding off hypothesis that he would transfer the 76ers throughout state traces, after the NBA’s Nets shifted to Brooklyn.
The Devils haven’t had as swift a turnaround because the 76ers. Whereas the workforce clinched a playoff spot this 12 months, the previous 4 seasons have had shedding information and the franchise, which gained the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003, has by no means superior previous the primary spherical of the playoffs below Harris-Blitzer possession.
Nonetheless, Harris has helped cement the Prudential Middle as a prime occasions vacation spot. It ranked fifth in Pollstar’s rating of gross earnings, the very best because it opened in 2007.
As for Crystal Palace: Harris purchased an 18% stake in 2015. The workforce has managed to stay within the Premier League and never get relegated — a feat in itself — however has by no means reached the higher echelons.
There are few precedents for the kind of sprawling sports activities empire that Harris is on the verge of commanding, although it’s changing into more and more prevalent among the many ultra-rich.
Stan Kroenke and his household are arguably the closest comparability. Price $14.9 billion on his personal, Kroenke owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, Arsenal FC in London, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and Main League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids. Collectively these holdings make up the overwhelming majority of his fortune.
His spouse, Ann, is the oldest daughter of James “Bud” Walton, co-founder of Walmart Inc., and has a internet price of $6.5 billion, in response to Bloomberg’s wealth index.
One other billionaire who has bought a number of sports activities franchises is within the Commanders’ yard. Ted Leonsis, founding father of Monumental Sports activities & Leisure, owns the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and is within the operating to purchase the Washington Nationals baseball workforce.
Harris’s group contains NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and fellow billionaire Mitchell Rales, who lives simply exterior of Washington. Harris is shopping for into the workforce as a person.
If the deal crosses the end line, Harris and his workforce may have loads to do. The Commander’s stadium is antiquated, and the well-documented tradition below present proprietor Dan Snyder wants an overhaul.
“An important factor — they’re sports activities followers,” Ganis mentioned. “That issues.”
–With help from Amanda Gordon.