Michael Rubin, part-owner of the Sixers over the last 11 years, is selling his stake in Joshua Harris and David Blitzer’s company that owns both the Sixers and Devils, according to team officials who announced the news on Wednesday morning.
In a statement released to the public via his social media channels, Rubin thanked the city of Philadelphia and explained his reasons behind selling his stake in the team.
“As our Fanatics business has grown, so too have the obstacles I have to navigate to ensure our new businesses don’t conflict with my responsibilities as part-owner of the Sixers,” Rubin said Wednesday. “With the launch of our trading cards and collectibles business earlier this year — which will have individual contracts with thousands of athletes globally — and a soon-to-launch sports betting operations, these new businesses will directly conflict with the ownership rules of sporets leagues. Given these realities, I will sadly be selling my stake in the Sixers and shifting from part-owner back to life-long fan.”
While various media outlets relayed the story as it broke to the public, Yaron Weitzman at Fox Sports interviewed Rubin in advance of the news, where Rubin relayed the reasoning behind getting out now, roughly a year and a half after this process started being put into motion.
Of Philadelphia’s ownership group, Rubin has been the man with the biggest public presence, spotted courtside at many games alongside a laundry list of celebrities, ranging from Guy Fieri to Meek Mill. Perhaps more importantly, it was Rubin who developed personal relationships with some of the franchise’s top players, most notably Joel Embiid and James Harden. Over the years, Embiid was spotted out with Rubin at various events and would occasionally pop up at Rubin’s home on social media posts, and Rubin was under the glare of the league office as the Sixers worked to bring Harden in this winter. Rubin’s relationships with Harden confidants raised some eyebrows as the Sixers tried to get that deal over the line, though ultimately nothing came from it.
From how it is being spun, Rubin’s ownership sale might accomplish several things at the same time, netting him a big profit from his initial investment while removing him from the glare of the league office and allowing him to continue aiding the Sixers in an unofficial capacity. At least, that seems to be the hope on Rubin’s end from what he told Weitzman.
Rubin might no longer have a financial stake in HBSE, which was recently valued as being worth $3 billion. But he said his allegiance to the Sixers and interest in helping them achieve their goal will remain the same.
“I’ll probably go to less games, but when there’s something going down that’s massive, I’ll stop what I’m doing to help. That’s who I am. That’s what I like doing,” he said. “I consider Josh (Harris) and Blitzer to be family. I consider Joel (Embiid) and James (Harden) to be family. And I look at Daryl and (head coach) Doc (Rivers) the same way. I have a lot of investment in the group and will do whatever I can to help those guys in whatever small way I can.”
One key question moving forward is what that help will look like now that Rubin no longer has to abide by league rules. As one high-ranking sports business executive who has worked with numerous NBA teams said, “He’s the biggest player in our business. Nobody has the relationships that he does. Nobody can connect with people on both the ownership side and player side like him.
“And in a player-run league like the NBA, I really do think he can be a competitive advantage.” (Fox Sports)
He certainly wouldn’t be the first person to exist in the gray area within NBA circles, a creative option to get around tampering rules and red tape in the NBA. Former CAA consultant William Wesley (otherwise known as Worldwide Wes), now a senior basketball advisor for the New York Knicks, developed a significant reputation in the 2000s as a sort of basketball power broker, serving as the connective tissue between stars, powerful agents, coaches, and organizations. The difference, however, is that the league will probably keep a closer eye on someone like Rubin as a result of his prior (and significant) ownership stake.
Rubin’s exit comes at a fascinating time for the franchise, right as they are set to make some important decisions regarding Harden’s future. His voice has grown more influential over the last half-decade in the Sixers’ world, with Rubin playing a part in their hiring of Daryl Morey and the acquisition of Harden from the Brooklyn Nets. Though he isn’t and wasn’t in possession of the largest stake in the franchise, he was certainly the most visible of Philadelphia’s owners, becoming the de facto face of the ownership group in recent years.
As for what this means for the rest of the ownership group and how that impacts the team into the future, it’s too early to say. But it’s certainly a big development in late June.
This story is developing…
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