Along with Joshua Harris, there are several other – mostly local – businessmen who hold a stake in the investor group that now owns and operates YOUR Philadelphia 76ers.
One of those men is Rubin, the founder of GSI Commerce, the King of Prussia company that was recently bought by eBay for, like, one hundred billion dollars (actually, 2.3, but whatevs).
Earlier this month, Darren Rovell wrote a lengthy profile on Rubin, who founded GSI first as an ecommerce platform for sporting goods companies and then expanded its partners to include other retailers and all of the major sports leagues. When GSI was sold to eBay, Rubin retained control of the partnerships with the leagues, along with Rue La La and Fanatics, a company GSI purchased earlier this year, branching them off into a new company called Kynetic.
I used to work on the MLB.com Shop at GSI, so here’s a brief synopsis of just how much the sports apparel world is dominated by a mid-sized company in King of Prussia.
GSI and Kynetic manage some or all of the following business functions for their partners: web hosting, marketing, buying, inventory, customer service, fulfillment, and more. Basically, if you bought, say, a basketball on Modells.com, you would likely also find the same ball (with often the same pricing and product description and number) at DicksSportingGoods.com and SportsAuthority.com. Why? Because, in many cases, it was purchased by the same product buyer, inventoried in the same warehouse, shipped from the same location, and came with the same customer service guarantee– all from GSI.*
The sports leagues, while maintaing much greater separation, function similarly. That’s the reason you can buy a Flyers jersey on MLB.com. GSI (now Kynetic), sometimes in partnership with buyers from the leagues, often handles the buying, warehousing, and shipping functions on jerseys, hats, and other apparel, while also running the day-to-day operations on the “shop” portions of the leagues' sites, including MLB.com, NFL.com, NHL.com, and NBA.com.
For example, we used to monitor sales, create and swap out banners, process price adjustments, track inventory, update league rosters (for customizable jerseys), setup promotions, and, yes, even obey MLB’s commands to kill off Nick Adenhart in our system after he died in a car crash (not part of the MLBPA anymore? not selling his jersey… even though hundreds of people wanted one).
If for nothing else than an interesting tidbit and because we’re not talking about the Phillies playing in Game 1 of the World Series tonight, here’s a little story about the night they won the World Series in 2008, when I was working for GSI.
Unfortunately, my role was to update the MLB Shop, the Phillies.com Shop, and, randomly, the CBS Sports Store the moment the game ended. Since I – obviously – wasn’t too thrilled (read: angry) that I was going to have to work during the first Philadelphia championship in my lifetime, I put an ad on Craigslist offering a college kid $20 to hold me a table at Fox and Hound in Center City, the only large sports bar with WIFI at the time, so I could watch the game with friends. It worked. I wound up updating the Phillies website with an ad for World Series Champs gear from a crowded bar in Philadelphia just moments after Brad Lidge dropped to his knees (oh I would have been so fired if their WIFI crapped out).
Photo evidence— that’s water, ice, and beer all over the laptop.
At the time, I was furious that I had to experience the game while pseudo-working, but it now makes for a good story and I’m sure will evolve into me updating the Phillies' website from an iPhone while hurling bottles through windows crossing Broad St.
Anyway, that’s GSI and Kynetic in a nutshell– all the leagues, most of the major sporting goods retailers, and often the exact same products, from the exact same place, backed by the exact same locally-founded company.
So there’s a good chance that if you buy any sort of sports equipment or apparel online, Michael Rubin, one of your new minority Sixers owners, had something to do with it.
Oh yeah, and he's known as a bit of a partier, too.
Here's some more on the rest of the owners.
*All of these details are based on experiences from my two years working at GSI. It’s possible that some roles and functions have changed since, but Rubin’s new company still lists MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, Nascar, and many other sports-related outlets as its partners. I’m guessing the business functions remain similar.