David Blitzer may as well define post-Penn success.
Graduating magna cum laude in 1991, the Wharton alumnus is the Global Head of Tactical Opportunities and Senior Managing Director of the Blackstone Group, the largest private equity firm in the world. He is the co-founder — alongside his wife Allison, a fellow Penn graduate — of the Blitzer Family Foundation. He still remains involved with his alma mater, serving on both the Board of Advisors of Wharton and the Board of Trustees at Penn.
Additionally, and perhaps most interestingly, Blitzer is the co-managing partner and co-chairman of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, an enormous sports and media conglomerate that owns the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA and the New Jersey Devils of the NHL. They also own Crystal Palace FC of the Premier League, the Sixers’ G-League affiliate Delaware Blue Coats, the Devils’ AHL affiliate Binghamton Devils, and the Prudential Center, in Newark, N.J.
Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE) was founded in 2017 by Blitzer and fellow Wharton grad Josh Harris, who purchased the 76ers in 2011 and the Devils in 2013, both of which were later folded into HBSE upon its creation. The duo’s purchase of the Sixers coincided with the start of The Process which, while reviled by many at the time, is now lauded by Philly faithful and analysts alike. Following a playoff run in the inaugural season of the 76ers-HBSE partnership, including a first-round upset over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls, a disappointing second year led to Harris and Blitzer hiring Sam Hinkie from the Houston Rockets to be the team’s new general manager.
Hinkie, who would become one of the most controversial figures in the NBA, engineered the revolutionary Process, which entailed trading away most of the team’s veterans in exchange for high draft picks and players on cheap contracts. When the team struggled in the first few years of the experiment, including a 1-21 start to the 2015-16 season, the Sixers were accused of “tanking” and Hinkie was let go.
However, his dealings would ultimately pay off for the franchise, as over the course of his three years as GM, the Sixers managed to acquire center Joel Embiid, point-guard-slash-power-forward-slash-ultimate-weapon Ben Simmons, and forwards Dario Saric and Robert Covington, all of whom would be integral to the team’s first playoff run in the 2017-18 season, its first since Harris and Blitzer’s first year of ownership.
The success snowballed from there, as the team would make another run in the following season with the acquisition of Tobias Harris, and the trade of Saric, Covington, and other pieces for All-Star Jimmy Butler. After heartbreak in the 2019 playoffs – which featured Kawhi Leonard's famous game-winning shot – and an injury-ridden, COVID-saddled 2020 season and playoffs, which also saw the departure of Butler to the Miami Heat, the Sixers currently sit in first place in the Eastern Conference in the 2020-21 season. Joel Embiid is widely seen as the frontrunner from MVP, and Philadelphia has the sixth-highest odds to win the NBA Finals, according to OddsShark.
The Sixers’ success has not only paid off in terms of fan appreciation of the team – and anticipation of a potential championship run in the near future – but has also paid off financially for Blitzer and the rest of the ownership group. HBSE bought the team for $280 million in 2011. Today, the team’s value has increased nearly tenfold, estimated at around $2 billion.
With their success, Harris and Blitzer have turned around and given back to the city of Philadelphia. In April, in the beginning of the pandemic, Embiid donated $500,000 to COVID-19 relief in the community, and HBSE partnered with him to donate an additional $1.3 million to Penn Medicine for Critical Support of Health Care Workers Fighting COVID-19. They have also provided over 160,000 meals to families in Philadelphia, Camden, and Northern N.J., supplies and financial support to frontline healthcare workers, and 10,000 Chromebooks to students in the Philadelphia area to support online learning.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.