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Phoenix Suns more likely to fetch record sale price for an NBA team, bankers say

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As Robert Sarver prepares to sell the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, investment bank officials who’ve managed the sales of skilled sports franchises told ESPN that they expect the transaction’s final price to set a record.

“It’ll be the best price ever paid for an NBA team,” one investment bank official said.

Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets for an NBA-record $2.35 billion in 2019. Prior to that sale, Tilman Fertitta purchased the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017, with Steve Ballmer buying the LA Clippers for $2 billion in 2014.

Aspects playing into a possible record bid could possibly be the Suns’ warm-weather climate, the team’s proximity to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Bay Area, in addition to a recent practice facility and renovated arena. Additional aspects include a recent television rights deal and CBA on the horizon, plus the NBA’s young and growing global audience and the potential for brand spanking new expansion teams in Seattle and Las Vegas.

“There’s going to be an incredible amount of interest,” an investment bank official said.

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Sarver has chosen the investment bank Moelis and Co. to oversee the sale, a source near the situation confirmed to ESPN. Sportico reported Monday that Sarver had chosen the bank. A spokesperson for Moelis and Co. declined to comment.

Moelis served as a financial adviser within the May 2022 sale of Chelsea Football Club to a consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, which bought the team for $5.3 billion. Moelis also acted as a financial adviser within the 2015 sale of the Atlanta Hawks to a bunch led by Tony Ressler for $850 million.

In recent days, Suns executive vice chairman and CFO Jim Pitman relayed to team employees that a totally executed sale of the team could take six to nine months, team sources said. That timeline would stretch through the 2022-23 season.

The Suns didn’t reply to a request for comment. The NBA declined comment.

Investment bank officials have been in touch with Sarver on behalf of potential bidders, team sources said, including reaching out on the day that Sarver announced his intent to sell.

Once a final bidder is chosen, that person — or group — have to be approved by the NBA, which can conduct financial, personal and criminal background checks. For any transfer of ownership to be complete, the NBA Board of Governors will vote, with approval requiring a three-fourths majority.

Sarver, the bulk owner of each the Suns and Mercury, announced Sept. 21 that he was searching for buyers for each franchises. That got here within the wake of an NBA investigation into allegations of misconduct by Sarver, who had been suspended one 12 months and fined $10 million.

The NBA commissioned that investigation within the wake of an ESPN story in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.

Suns vice chairman and minority owner Sam Garvin is the team’s interim governor. Sarver owns a few third of the franchise, but he has the authority because the team’s managing partner to sell the team in full.

Jerry Colangelo, who sold the team to a bunch led by Sarver in 2004 for a then-record $401 million, told ESPN that he’s optimistic concerning the franchise’s path ahead.

“I think this — it’s considered one of the good markets within the country because it pertains to the longer term,” Colangelo said. “It was an excellent free agent destination at one time. There isn’t any reason why it could possibly’t be going forward.”

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