Add one more task to the Philadelphia 76ers off-season to-do list.
The team announced on Wednesday that CEO Scott O’Neil is leaving the franchise to seek “new opportunities”. He was hired in 2013 and is credited with helping rebrand the Sixers during his eight seasons with the club. He landed the National Basketball Association’s first jersey patch deal, a new practice facility, in 2016 and helped the Sixers make their first appearance in 2019.
O’Neil was CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Sixers and New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League. 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’ve ever had, because every day presented a new opportunity to learn and develop.”
In 2016, O’Neil orchestrated a deal that made the Sixers the first American professional sports franchise to have a e-sports team. That helped the team rank 12th at 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 space of time, driving our growth, culture and commitment to strengthening the communities in which we live, work, play and win,” Harris said in a statement. “I cannot emphasize enough how much we appreciate Scott’s tremendous 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 longtime director of the NBA league. His departure comes at a time when the Sixers are in transition on and off the field.
The team failed to reach the conference final despite taking first place 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 corporate front, giving the Sixers a new arena, and potentially bringing the NBA’s All-Star Game back to town. Before the pandemic, rumors around the league suggested that the Sixers and city officials could bid for the 2026 event, but no decision has yet been made to submit a proposal to the NBA.
If a bid is made, 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 Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park that year.
On the Devils front, O’Neil landed the team as the NHL’s first helmet sponsor last December. However, the team finished this season 19-30-7 and has not made the play-offs since 2018.