Mat Ishbia agrees to purchase Phoenix Suns and Mercury in record $4bn sale | Phoenix Suns


Mortgage executive Mat Ishbia has agreed in principle to buy a controlling interest in the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury from embattled owner Robert Sarver for $4 billion, the parties announced Tuesday.

The sale is expected to take several weeks. Ishbia — who serves as chairman, president and chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage, which bills itself as the nation’s largest mortgage lender — will be subject to a vetting process by the NBA, and once that is complete, the league’s board of directors will approve the sale.

The board is not supposed to meet until March, though it could meet virtually if the vetting process is completed ahead of time.

Forbes recently listed Ishbia’s net worth at $5.1 billion. Ishbia is a former Michigan State player under coach Tom Izzo and was a member of the Spartans’ NCAA championship team in 2000.

“I am extremely excited to be the next governor of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Ishbia said in a statement Tuesday night. “Both teams have an incredibly dynamic fan base and I have loved experiencing the energy of the Valley over the past few months.

“Basketball has been at the heart of my life, from my high school days as a player to the honor of playing for Coach Izzo and winning a national title at Michigan State University. I have spent the past two decades building my mortgage business, United Wholesale Mortgage, into the number one mortgage lender in America and I am confident we can bring this same level of success to these great organizations on and off the floor.”

If the sale closes at $4 billion, it would be the largest purchase in NBA history. Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center for $3.3 billion in 2019, and Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017.

The only other NBA franchise known to have sold for $2 billion or more was the Los Angeles Clippers, when Steve Ballmer acquired that team in 2014.

“I had a great phone call with fellow Spartan Mat Ishbia congratulating him on his purchase of the Phoenix Suns,” Magic Johnson, another Michigan State alumnus, tweeted Tuesday. “He’s going to do great things, not just for the Suns organization, but for the entire league. All the other 29 NBA teams better watch out, because Mat is a winner!”

Justin Ishbia, Mat’s brother, will also be part of the ownership group, pending approval. Mat Ishbia becomes the team’s governor, Justin the alternate governor.

Ishbia’s business is built around team aspects, and he often speaks of the lessons he learned playing for Tom Izzo and with Mateen Cleaves at Michigan State. His company even has an intramural basketball program with a full gym on site.

“This isn’t that complicated,” Ishbia recently told HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel for a profile, discussing his strategy with people. “Make sure the best people join your team, just like in sports. Train them, coach them to become the best version of themselves, like Izzo used to do with us. And then treat them so well that they never want to leave.”

Mat Ishbia, left, was a former Michigan State basketball player and a member of the Spartans NCAA championship team in 2000. Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The NBA suspended Sarver for a year in September, plus a $10 million fine, after an investigation found him guilty of what the league called “workplace misconduct and organizational failings.”

The league’s report’s findings came nearly a year after the NBA asked a law firm to investigate allegations that Sarver had a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents throughout his nearly two-decade tenure as franchise overseer.

Shortly thereafter, Sarver announced that he would like to sell the Suns and the Mercury.

Sarver bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million – an NBA record at the time, and about 10 times less than the price Ishbia was willing to pay.

“Mat is the right leader to build on franchise legacies of winning and community support and lead the Suns and Mercury into the next era,” said Sarver. “As a former collegiate basketball player and national champion, Mat has just the right spirit, commitment and resources to pursue championships.”

Ishbia has previously been mentioned as a possible purchaser of pro franchises, and he is a prominent donor to the state of Michigan. He helped fund the $95 million deal the Spartans gave football coach Mel Tucker last year. He played in 48 games for Izzo during his time as a walk-on guard at East Lansing.

Ishbia confirmed to the Associated Press in November his interest in buying the NFL’s Washington Commanders after owners Dan and Tanya Snyder hired a firm to research potential transactions. It wasn’t immediately clear whether buying the Suns would get him out of the trial with the Commanders.

“This is a dream come true for my entire family, including my parents, my three children and my brother Justin, who will be making a significant investment with me, bringing his incredible business acumen and shared passion for basketball,” said Ishbia. “I appreciate Robert Sarver’s time and support throughout the process. We are so honored to be the next stewards of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, with the approval of the NBA.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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