Who could buy the Suns from Robert Sarver? Expect a bidding war

Sep 22, 2022, 3:07 PM
The Walt Disney Company Former CEO and Chairman Robert Iger speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2022 ...
The Walt Disney Company Former CEO and Chairman Robert Iger speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference - Day 2 on September 07, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media)
(Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media)

It’s hard to say where owner Robert Sarver’s path to selling the Phoenix Suns and Mercury goes or how long it will take.

He announced Wednesday that he is seeking a buyer for the franchises after a week of mounting pressure from the NBA to do more than suspend Sarver a year. It did so after releasing the findings of an investigation into his behavior, language and treatment of others in the workplace.

Public pressure from NBA stars like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green, plus a threat from Suns sponsor PayPal, were key moments that led to Sarver ultimately deciding to sell before training camps open starting this coming week.

“He was going to take on a lot of extra heat from the players once the players were speaking,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Thursday.

The expectation is the Suns’ for-sale sign will draw plenty of interest, but it’s important to note Sarver — despite his suspension — holds control of who ultimately buys the team.

While Forbes last season valued the Suns at $1.8 billion — Sarver bought the team in 2004 for $401 million — the sale price could be much higher.

“I think it’s going to blow that out of the water,” Windhorst said. “I think it’ll be well over $2 billion. I think you’ll have multiple bidders.

“I think this is going to be a very hot property. A lot of owners, they live on the coasts and they want to be able to get to their teams.”

Windhorst’s ESPN colleague Ramona Shelburne believes the Suns could even be sold for $3-4 billion.

Between them, a few very rich people have surfaced as potential buyers.

While these are not hard-line reports, the names do indicate the expected potential for a historic purchase price for the NBA and WNBA franchises.

A few names were thrown out there by Shelburne and Windhorst in the past 24 hours:

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos: Yes, the second-richest man in the world ($171 billion), per Forbes.

Former CEO of the Walt Disney Company Bob Iger: As we know from the relationship between ESPN and the NBA, not to mention Disney World’s hosting of the bubble during the pandemic, there is a strong tie between the league and Iger’s former company. But also: There’s a friendship between Iger and Suns guard Chris Paul, and in that, Iger’s name makes the most sense out of these names.

Chairman and co-founder of Oracle Larry Ellison: He thought he was about to purchase the Golden State Warriors in 2010 before current owner Joe Lacob swooped in and got it at a cheaper price. Ellison is one of the top-10 richest people in the world with a net worth of $106 billion, according to Forbes.

Founder and chair of Emerson Collective Laurene Powell Jobs: The widow of Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, she has a 20% stake in the ownership group of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals.

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