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June 25, 2019

Sixers' minority owner David Heller has sold his interest in the team

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Sixers minority owner David Heller has sold his interest in the company that owns the team, a spokesman confirmed to PhillyVoice on Tuesday morning. Bleacher Report's Yaron Weitzman was the first to report on the story.

In a statement provided by a spokesman for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, a spokesman confirmed Heller would be parting ways with the company that owns the Sixers, New Jersey Devils, and the English Premier League's Crystal Palace F.C.

"We can confirm that David Heller has sold his interest in Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE)," they said in a statement. "David will always be a friend to this organization. We appreciate his time, effort, energy and partnership, and wish him well in his future endeavors."

If you are not up to date on the Sixers' full list of investors, I can't blame you. After Joshua Harris and David Blitzer, there are 10 different "limited partners" with different size stakes in the organization, ranging from former eccentric CEO Adam Aron to Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.

Heller does not have the visibility of the aforementioned names (or even that of limited partner Michael Rubin, who has made waves for his relationship with Meek Mill) but he has been a curious figure in Philadelphia's ongoing power shakeup over the last few seasons.

In the fall, Keith Pompey of the Inquirer named Heller as a major power broker in the organization, with his supposed influence looming large in the team executing a trade involving Zhaire Smith and Villanova's Mikal Bridges on the night of the 2018 NBA Draft. Pompey's reporting called Heller the, "biggest voice in the room" during larger meetings. 

The accuracy of that reporting depends on who you ask. The team downplayed the reporting at the time, though they would not go so far as to say Heller is uninvolved in the team's day-to-day operations. In discussions with sources around the team on Tuesday, PhillyVoice was told that prior to Elton Brand being hired as GM of the team in September, Heller did have a level of visibility within the organization. 

As for specifics of that role, the people spoken to declined to get into specifics but made note of how his involvement had changed over the last nine months. Several people said to PhillyVoice that Heller was not involved or around for any basketball decision-making following Brand's hire. 

Whether that is ultimately a good thing is an eye-of-the-beholder judgment

The Sixers have operated in quite a different manner since Brand took over last September, but it is hard to separate those actions from the team's evolving priorities as a contending team. This has been one of the major struggles of untangling Philadelphia's moves since Bryan Colangelo parted ways with the team last June. Nearly all of his front office lieutenants have remained in place, which makes it hard to dole out credit (or blame) for involvement in the team's decision-making process, even (and perhaps especially) reaching as high as Brand.

It is an interesting time for Heller to part ways with the team in any case, with the Sixers presumably on the verge of contending over the short term. That is a double-edged sword for the owners — the Sixers have routinely sold out games since Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons made the team relevant again, but a large luxury tax bill potentially looms on the horizon for the owners to pay.

Philadelphia's ownership group has been under fire over the last week or so following the completion of a draft which saw them continue a practice of selling off second-round picks in lieu of drafting players who could compete for a roster spot. Sixers GM Elton Brand offered his own explanation for Philadelphia's second-round maneuvering in the second round.

"We have championship aspirations," Brand said. "You look around the league, you look in the past, you don't see many teams that win championships with a lot of rookies that are contributing."

The Sixers declined to offer any explanation for Heller's sale, except to say they were unaware of any underlying issues that would have prompted a sale. A request for comment from Heller was not returned at the time of publication.

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