Mat Ishbia completes acquisition of Suns for $4 billion

Billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia is completing its acquisition of Mercury from the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA for a record $4 billion, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

The deal, expected to be announced on Tuesday, will end the turbulent tenure of owner Robert Sarver.

Ishbia is well known and respected within the league office, including Commissioner Adam Silver, and has developed relationships with a number of NBA owners. Sources said the Board of Governors will have to go through a background check and vote, but that is expected to be a formality.

Justin Ishbia, co-founder of Shore Capital, will make a significant investment and serve as substitute governor, sources told ESPN. He is Mat’s brother.

The Suns’ record sale marks a new day in the rising valuations of NBA teams. Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets for $2.35 billion in 2019, an NBA record. Prior to this sale, Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017 and Steve Ballmer bought the LA Clippers for $2 billion in 2014.

The Lakers had a minority stake sold for more than the $4 billion purchase of the Suns, resulting in a $5 billion valuation.

Ishbia, President and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, has been following NBA and NFL teams in recent years and has finally reached an agreement to own the Suns. Ishbia was a marcher for Michigan State and was part of the Spartans’ 2000 national championship team. He’s stuck with Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo and has previously donated $32 million to the basketball program.

The sale will end Sarver’s tenure with the Suns, which goes back to 2004, when he bought the team from Jerry Colangelo for a record $401 million.

Sarver announced on September 21 that he would sell the Suns and Mercury in mid-September, shortly after the NBA announced the findings of a 10-month investigation into the Suns’ behavior as majority owner.

The NBA commissioned this investigation, led by New York-based law firm Wachtell Lipton, following an ESPN story in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misogyny over the 17 years Sarver had owned.

As part of the league’s sentencing, announced Sept. 13, Sarver was fined $10 million and suspended for one year, but mounting anger soon led him to announce that he had sold the Suns and Mercury.

Sarver chose investment bank Moelis & Company to oversee the sale, and investment bank officials who previously managed the sale of professional sports franchises previously told ESPN they expected the final price of the transaction to hit a record.

In September, Suns vice president and CFO Jim Pitman told team employees that it could take six to nine months to fully sell the team, with that timeline stretching into the 2022-23 season, team sources said.

But in recent weeks, team workers have told ESPN that groups of potential bidders have been seen touring the team facilities. Sarver owns about a third of the franchise, but has the authority to sell the entire team as managing partner, sources told ESPN.

ESPN’s Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.

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