Mat Ishbia ready to buy Sun, Mercury for $4 billion
Mortgage executive Matt Ishbia has agreed in principle to buy a majority stake in the Phoenix Sun and Phoenix Mercury from beleaguered owner Robert Sarver for $4 billion, the two parties announced Tuesday.
The sale is expected to take several weeks to complete. Ishbia — who is chairman, president and chief executive officer 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 it is complete, It would be up to the league’s board of governors to approve the sale.
The board is not scheduled to meet until March, although it may convene virtually if the review process is already complete.
Forbes recently estimated 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 very excited to be the next governor of the Phoenix Sun & Mercury,” Ishbia said in a statement Tuesday night. ,
“From my high school days as a single player to playing for Coach Izzo and winning national titles at Michigan State University, basketball has been central to my life. I’ve spent the last two decades building our mortgage business, United Wholesale Mortgage, into the number one mortgage lender in America, and I’m confident we can bring that same level of success to these great organizations.
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 in 2019 for $3.3 billion, and Tillman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets in 2017 for $2.2 billion.
The only other NBA franchise to be sold for $2 billion or more was the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer in 2014.
Magic Johnson, another Michigan State alum, tweeted Tuesday, “I got a great call congratulating me on my purchase of the Phoenix Suns along with fellow Spartan Matt Ishbia.” “He’s going to do a great job not only for the Suns organization, but for the entire league. All 29 other NBA teams better pay attention because Matt is a winner!”
Matt’s brother, Justin Ishbia, will also be part of the ownership group pending approval. Matt Ishbia will be the team governor, with Justin alternate governor.
Suns coach Montee Williams said he did not want to comment until the move was official.
Williams said, “Googling people and trying to judge them, I think it’s dangerous. People have done that to me and to me.”
Ishbia’s company is built around team aspects, and he often talks about the lessons he learned playing for Tom Izzo and with Mateen Cleaves at Michigan State. His company also has an intramural basketball program with a full-court gym on site.
“It’s not that complicated,” Ishbia told HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for a recent profile, discussing his strategy with People. “Get the best guys on your team, like in sports. Train them, train them to be the best version of themselves, like Izzo used to do with us. And then treat them so well that they never wouldn’t want to leave either
In September, the NBA suspended Sarver for one year, as well as fined him $10 million, after an investigation found he was involved in “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies” in the league.
The sentencing came nearly a year after the NBA asked a law firm to investigate allegations that Sarver had a history of racist, anti-feminist and hostile incidents during his nearly two-decade tenure overseeing the franchise.
Shortly after, Sarwar announced that he wanted to sell Sun and Mercury.
Sarver bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million – then an NBA record, and about 10 times less than the price Ishbia was paying.
Sarwar said, “Matt is the right leader to build on a franchise legacy of victories and community support and lead the Sun and Mercury into the next era.” “As a former collegiate basketball player and national champion, Matt has exactly the right spirit, commitment and resources to lead us to a championship.”
Ishbia has previously been mentioned as a possible buyer of the Pro franchise, and is a major Michigan State donor. He helped secure the $95 million deal awarded by the Spartans to football coach Mel Tucker last year. He played in 48 games for Izzo during his time as a walk-on guard in East Lansing.
Owners Dan and Tanya Snyder confirmed their interest in purchasing the NFL’s Washington Commanders to The Associated Press in November after hiring the firm to explore a potential transaction. It was not immediately clear whether buying Sun would leave him out of the process with Commanders.
“It is a dream come true for my entire family, including my parents, my three children and my brother Justin, who will make a significant investment with me.
MatIshbia ready to buy Sun, Mercury for $4 billion
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
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