Billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia has agreed terms on a reported $4bn (£3.29bn/€3.76bn) takeover of the Phoenix Suns, a deal that would represent a record price for an NBA basketball franchise.
Ishbia, who is chairman and CEO of Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage, has entered into a majority stake purchase agreement, which also includes women’s WNBA team Phoenix Mercury, with current owner Robert Sarver.
The Suns said the deal is now pending league approval, and it is expected this will be granted without any challenges. ESPN.com said that Justin Ishbia, Mat Ishbia’s brother and a founding partner in Shore Capital, will make a significant investment and serve as alternate governor.
Ishbia’s acquisition of more than 50% of the teams will include all of Sarver’s interest plus some of the interest held by minority partners. Ishbia said in a statement: “I am extremely excited to be the next governor of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury.
“Both teams have an incredibly dynamic fan base and I have loved experiencing the energy of the Valley over the last few months. Basketball is at the core of my life, from my high school days as a player to the honour of playing for coach (Tom) Izzo and winning a national title at Michigan State University.
“I’ve spent the last two decades building my mortgage business, United Wholesale Mortgage, into the number one mortgage lender in America and I’m confident that we can bring that same level of success to these great organisations on and off the floor.
“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 and bring his incredible business acumen and shared passion for basketball.”
The deal is set to end Sarver’s chequered tenure. In 2004, Sarver led a group to acquire the franchise for a then-record $401m. Sarver announced on September 21 that he would be selling the two teams, shortly after the NBA disclosed the findings of an investigation into his conduct as majority owner of the Suns.
Sarver was fined $10m and suspended for a year after the investigation uncovered a series of racist and misogynist remarks from the owner and his creation of “a toxic and sometimes hostile workplace.”
Sarver said yesterday (Tuesday): “Mat is the right leader to build on franchise legacies of winning and community support and shepherd the Suns and Mercury into the next era.
“As a former collegiate basketball player and national champion, Mat has exactly the right spirit, commitment and resources to pursue championships. Equally important, though, is his philanthropic outlook and commitment to using sports as a way to elevate and connect people. I know he shares my unwavering support for women’s basketball and I look forward to watching him become a unifying force across the Valley of the Sun.”
Should the deal conclude, the Suns takeover will set a new benchmark for the NBA. This had been held by the Brooklyn Nets after Joe Tsai concluded a $3.3bn deal for the franchise and its Barclays Center arena in September 2019.