Mortgage executive Mat Ishbia has agreed in principle to purchase a majority stake of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury from the embattled owner Robert Sarver for $4 billion, the edges announced Tuesday.
The sale is anticipated to take several weeks to finish. Ishbia — who’s chairman, president and chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage, which bills itself because the nation’s largest mortgage lender — might be subjected to a vetting process by the NBA, and once that’s complete, the league’s board of governors can have to approve the sale.
The board isn’t scheduled to satisfy until March, though it could convene virtually if the vetting process is accomplished beforehand.
Forbes recently listed Ishbia’s net price 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’m extremely excited to be the following Governor of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Ishbia said in an announcement Tuesday night. “Each teams have an incredibly dynamic fan base and I even have loved experiencing the energy of the Valley over the previous few months.
“Basketball is on the core of my life, from my highschool days as a player to the distinction of playing for Coach Izzo and winning a national title at Michigan State University. I’ve spent the last twenty years constructing my mortgage business, United Wholesale Mortgage, into the primary mortgage lender in America and I’m confident that we will bring that very same level of success to those great organizations on and off the ground.”
If the sale closes at $4 billion, it might be the biggest purchase in NBA history. Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center for $3.3 billion in 2019, and Tilman Fertitta purchased the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017.
The one other NBA franchise known to be sold for $2 billion or more was the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer in 2014.
“I had an important call with fellow Spartan Mat Ishbia congratulating him on his purchase of the Phoenix Suns,” Magic Johnson, one other Michigan State alum, tweeted Tuesday. “He’s going to do great things not just for the Suns organization, but for the complete league. The entire other 29 NBA teams higher be careful because Mat’s a winner!”
Justin Ishbia, Mat’s brother, also might be a part of the ownership group, pending approval. Mat Ishbia might be the team’s governor, Justin the alternate governor.
Suns coach Monty Williams said he didn’t wish to comment until the move is official.
“Google-searching people and attempting to make assessments about who they’re, I feel that’s dangerous,” Williams said. “People have done that with me and I just form of laugh.”
Ishbia’s company is built around team points, and he often speaks of the teachings he learned while playing for Tom Izzo and with Mateen Cleaves at Michigan State. His company even has an intramural basketball program with an on-site full-court gym.
“This will not be that complicated,” Ishbia recently told HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for a profile, discussing his strategy with people. “Get the very best people to hitch your team, similar to in sports. Train them, coach them to be the very best version of themselves, like Izzo used to do with us. After which treat them so well that they never want to go away.”
The NBA suspended Sarver in September for one yr, plus fined him $10 million, after an investigation found he had engaged in what the league called “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies.”
The punishment got here nearly a yr after the NBA asked a law firm to research allegations that Sarver had a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents over his nearly two-decade tenure overseeing the franchise.
Shortly afterward, Sarver announced he could be trying to sell the Suns and the Mercury.
Sarver bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million — then an NBA record, and roughly 10 times lower than the value Ishbia agreed to pay.
“Mat is the best leader to construct on franchise legacies of winning and community support and shepherd the Suns and Mercury into the following era,” Sarver said. “As a former collegiate basketball player and national champion, Mat has exactly the best spirit, commitment and resources to pursue championships.”
Ishbia has been mentioned before as a possible buyer of professional franchises, and he’s a outstanding Michigan State donor. He helped fund the $95 million deal that the Spartans gave football coach Mel Tucker last yr. He played in 48 games for Izzo during his time as a walk-on guard in East Lansing.
Ishbia in November confirmed to The Associated Press his interest in buying the NFL’s Washington Commanders after owners Dan and Tanya Snyder hired a firm to explore potential transactions. It was not immediately clear if buying the Suns would take him out of the method with the Commanders.
“It is a dream come true for my entire family including my parents, my three children, and my brother Justin, who might be making a big investment with me and convey his incredible business acumen and shared passion for basketball,” Ishbia said. “I appreciate Robert Sarver’s time and support throughout the method. We’re so honored to be, with approval by the NBA, the following stewards of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury.”