A weeklong investigation into a collection of anonymous Twitter accounts that captivated Philadelphia and the NBA for more than a week has determined that Bryan Colangelo, the Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations, was “careless and in some instances reckless” in safeguarding sensitive team information, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison said in a statement Thursday. Colangelo resigned Thursday, according to a statement from the team.
Paul Weiss found no evidence that Colangelo established or tweeted from a group of accounts that criticized, among others, current and former members of the 76ers; Colangelo’s predecessor in Philadelphia, Sam Hinkie; and his successor at his previous job with the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri. The accounts also discussed private team information, as The Ringer detailed in a story May 29 that identified the accounts and linked them to Colangelo. The accounts, Paul Weiss found, were established and operated by Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini.
“Our investigation revealed substantial evidence that Mr. Colangelo was the source of sensitive, nonpublic, club-related information contained in certain posts to the Twitter accounts,” Paul Weiss said.
Paul Weiss is no stranger to sensitive investigations in the world of professional sports. The National Football League brought the firm in for its “Deflategate” investigation in 2015 and to review allegations of abuse within the Miami Dolphins organization. The firm also conducted a lengthy probe of the National Basketball Players Association’s business practices following the National Basketball Association’s 2011 lockout.
The 76ers’ ownership group hired Paul Weiss the day after the existence of the Twitter accounts was first made public, and on June 5 the firm completed a forensic investigation and witness interviews—an investigation that was “impeded by certain actions taken by Ms. Bottini,” the firm said, including a factory reset of her iPhone prior to submitting it for forensic review. Bottini, though, admitted to creating and posting from the accounts, an admission that was corroborated by forensic evidence, the firm said.
Paul Weiss chairman Brad Karp led the investigation, alongside senior partner Lorin Reisner, former chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and partner Richard Tarlowe, former chief of that office’s Cybercrime Unit. The team reviewed the activity of Twitter accounts that used the handles “Eric jr,” “Still Balling,” “Enoughunkownsources” and “HonestAbe.”