Add another task to the Philadelphia 76ers offseason to-do list.
On Wednesday, the team announced CEO Scott O'Neil is leaving the franchise to seek “new opportunities.” Hired in 2013, O'Neil is credited for helping rebrand the Sixers over his eight seasons with the club. He landed the National Basketball Association's first jersey patch deal in 2016, a new practice facility, and helped the Sixers finish first attendance in 2019.
O'Neil served as CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Sixers and National Hockey League's New Jersey Devils. The sports company is run by Apollo Global Management co-founder Josh Harris and Blackstone executive David Blitzer.
In a statement, O'Neil said working for HBSE was one of the most difficult challenges of his career “and the most fun I have ever had, because every day brought a new opportunity to learn and develop.”
In 2016, O'Neil orchestrated a deal that made the Sixers the first U.S. pro sports franchise to own an e-sports team. That helped the team rank 12th on the Sports Innovation Lab's 25 most innovative teams in the world.
“Scott has accomplished so much on behalf of the organization in a relatively short amount of time, driving our growth, culture, and commitment to strengthening the communities in which we live, work, play, and win,” said Harris in a statement. “I cannot overstate how much we value Scott's enormous contributions to the company and how grateful I am for his leadership and partnership in creating a best-in-class culture at HBSE.”
Before joining HBSE, O'Neil was president of Madison Square Garden Sports and a long-time NBA league office executive. His departure comes at a time the Sixers are in transition on and off the court.
The team failed to reach the conference finals despite finishing first in the East. Co-franchise star Ben Simmons struggled in the postseason, and his future with the team is unclear. And on Tuesday, long-time play-by-play TV announcer Marc Zumoff announced his retirement.
The team's next CEO will be tasked with keeping the franchise stable on the business front, landing the Sixers a new arena, and possibly steering the NBA's All-Star Game back to the city. Before the pandemic, rumblings around the league suggested the Sixers and city officials could make a bid for the 2026 event, but a decision to present a proposal to the NBA has not been made.
If a bid is submitted, Philadelphia could potentially host two major league all-star games in one year. The city is already set to host Major League Baseball's All-Star Game at the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park that year.
On the Devils front, O'Neil landed the team the NHL's first helmet sponsor last December. However, the team finished with a 19-30-7 this season and haven't made the playoffs since 2018.
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