All four of Josh Harris' great-grandparents settled in Philadelphia. All four of his grandparents lived there. His parents, too, met in the City of Brotherly Love. It was only natural that the private equity investor would become the principal owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.
Less than 100 miles away, another businessman has made a name for himself in the sports world. After finding success as a hedge fund manager, Steve Cohen pursued a new venture in sports. On Oct. 30, Cohen purchased a majority ownership in the MLB’s New York Mets.
While two seemingly unrelated businessmen may seem to only have sports ownership in common, they share another connection: they’re both Wharton graduates.
From baseball to basketball to soccer, Harris dabbled in a little bit of everything growing up. But it wasn’t until he started wrestling at 9 years old that he found his true calling.
Frequently being dominated during his early wrestling matches, Harris decided to step up his training during his years at The Field School in Washington. His hard work paid off — in high school he placed third in a Maryland state tournament and even made the wrestling team at Penn.
“That was a real lesson for life that hard work and grit and tenacity led to more positive outcomes,” Harris said in an interview with Forbes.
His athletic tenacity began to translate academically as well. Beginning high school with Cs and Bs, Harris used the grit he learned from wrestling and applied it to his studies — soon enough, he was a straight-A student graduating summa cum laude from Penn.
His determination to succeed led him to eventually co-found Apollo Global Management, an investment firm specializing in investing across private equity, credit, and real assets.
In 2011, Harris became the principal owner of the Philadelphia 76ers. Not long after, in 2013, he also purchased a majority share in the New Jersey Devils.
Like Harris, Cohen was a fierce competitor in athletics. Attending Great Neck North High School in Long Island, N.Y., Cohen was a part of his school’s soccer team. According to his 1974 yearbook, he scored 10 goals and made the All-Division team in his senior year.
His competitive fire drove him to succeed in athletics. Just as it did for Harris, that determination translated into his academic life as well.
After graduating Wharton with an economics degree, Cohen found a role as a junior trader in the options arbitrage department at Gruntal & Co.— a boutique investment firm that was acquired in 2002.
In 1992, Cohen started his own firm, S.A.C. Capital Advisors, which was a group of hedge funds. By 2009, the company managed $14 billion in equity.
In 2012, Cohen became a minority owner in the New York Mets, with an 8% stake in the team. In 2020, majority control of the team was up for sale, and several prominent groups were vying for the Mets.
Bids came in from the Washington Wizards’ All-Star guard Bradley Beal, Jennifer Lopez, and Penn’s very own Josh Harris. In the end, the Mets came to an agreement to sell the team to Cohen, making him the richest owner in baseball.
Though they came from different backgrounds, Harris and Cohen discovered the grit and determination needed to succeed — and with a little help from Wharton, they were both soon on their paths to sports ownership.