Tumultuous week led to Suns owner Robert Sarver’s decision to sell

Sep 28, 2022, 11:05 AM
Owner Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns attends the NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Pho...
Owner Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns attends the NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Phoenix Suns Arena on February 08, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A new report details more behind-the-scenes information that resulted in Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the team.

While allegations of racism and misconduct toward women against Sarver were the primary factors that led to NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to suspend Sarver for a year, a report from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Ramona Shelburne details the different sources of pressure that led Sarver to decide to sell his stake in the team.

ESPN says that almost 30 sponsors – who provided nearly $11 million in revenue – would have needed additional convincing to prevent a mass exodus of financial support for the team.

Verizon Wireless and Footprint, two companies who have name stakes on the Suns home arena and practice facilities, were considering ending endorsement deals with the team following in the footsteps of jersey patch partner, PayPal.

The team had been planning for the fallout from the NBA’s investigation for weeks, sources close to the team said.

It was also revealed that despite Sarver’s anger toward the one-year ban issued by Silver, the two had been speaking often.

Silver had been speaking directly to Sarver frequently since issuing the yearlong suspension, sources said, encouraging him to act in the best interest of his franchises and remove himself from the equation by selling both teams.

The report also reveals that after Sarver’s announcement to sell the team that CEO Jason Rowley led an employee videoconference that neither galvanized the workforce nor addressed the impact that Sarver’s actions had on the staff.

After the call, the reaction to Rowley’s words was tepid at best, some staffers said. They believed he’d stuck to the company’s talking points, which had been distributed to staffers soon after the NBA’s investigation was released: That many findings focused on historical events that had already been addressed, that the team had made “tremendous” progress in recent years, that it strove to create a “best-in-class workplace.”

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. Shelburne believes the Suns could be sold for up to $4 billion.

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Tumultuous week led to Suns owner Robert Sarver’s decision to sell