Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics, a prominent minority owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, is selling its stake in Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Sixers and New Jersey Devils, he announced Wednesday.
Rubin, who sources say has a 10 percent stake in HBSE, is divesting its 11-year interest in the NBA and NHL franchises amid looming conflict over expanding its Fanatics business into sports betting and individual player partnerships.
“As our Fanatics business has grown, so have the obstacles I must overcome to ensure our new businesses do not conflict with my responsibilities as a shareholder of the Sixers,” Rubin said in a statement. “…In light of these realities, unfortunately, I will be selling my stake in the Sixers and going from being a part-owner back to being a lifelong fan.”
Fanatics is a $20 billion+ company that sells licensed professional and college merchandise online. The expansion into sports betting and the negotiation of individual partnership agreements with professional athletes leads to numerous conflicts with collective bargaining regulations.
Before the Sixers-Brooklyn Nets trade involving guard James Harden in February, Rubin drew the attention of NBA rivals due to his close relationship with Harden. Rubin can now enter into outside financial partnerships with players who were denied access because Rubin was part owner of the teams, a path that could prove beneficial for the Sixers as they work to re-sign Harden.
“Given Michael’s tremendous success in building Fanatics into a global platform across all major sports, his decision comes as no surprise,” said HBSE Founder and Managing General Partner Josh Harris in a statement. “I am so grateful for his years of partnership. His fierce passion, entrepreneurial mindset and unwavering commitment to doing what is right left an indelible mark on the Sixers organization.
“Michael will always be a member of our HBSE and Sixers family, remaining a local presence and a key partner in our shared commitment to be a force for good in Philadelphia.”
David Blitzer, Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director of HBSE said: “Michael is a visionary and innovator who has played an integral role in helping us grow and position HBSE for future success. He has been an incredible friend and business partner over the past 11 years and his instincts, work ethic, passion and ability to bring people together have helped propel him into one of the most influential and successful leaders in the industry.
“Michael has used those same attributes to help us evolve and grow while becoming an engine for positive, inspiring change in our communities. As he prepares for this new chapter in his career, I look forward to watching Michael as he continues to revolutionize the Fanatics business, which unleashes its full potential by connecting sports fans from around the world across a variety of new platforms and verticals. “