PHOENIX SUNS

Billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia finalizes purchase of Suns from Robert Sarver

Dec 20, 2022, 5:17 PM | Updated: Feb 7, 2023, 8:59 am

Billionaire mortgage lender and former Michigan State basketball player Mat Ishbia finalized the purchase of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury from Robert Sarver on Tuesday.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the move.

The agreement, which is still pending league approval, values both teams at $4 billion and involves the sale of over 50% ownership, including all of Sarver’s interest, according to a press release.

“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,” Sarver said in the release. “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.”

Mat Ishbia will also serve as the team governor, while his brother, Justin, will be the alternate governor.

“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,” Mat Ishbia said in the release. “Basketball is at the core of my life, from my high school days as a player to the honor of playing for Coach 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 organizations on and off the floor,” he added. “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. I appreciate Robert Sarver’s time and support throughout the process. We are so honored to be, with approval by the NBA, the next steward of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury.”

The $4 billion sale is the largest purchase in NBA history. Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center for $3.3 billion in 2019, and Tilman Fertitta purchased the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017.

Mat Ishbia, 42, is chairman and CEO of mortgage lender United Wholesale Mortgage, based in Michigan. His net worth is $5.1 billion this year, according to Forbes.com.

Justin Ishbia, who according to Forbes has a net worth of $2.2 billion, is a founding partner of private equity firm Shore Capital. He is also an investor in United Wholesale Mortgage, founded by the brothers’ father, Jeff.

Mat Ishbia won the national title with Michigan State in 2000. He played with former Suns guard Jason Richardson there in 1999-2001.

In college, Ishbia appeared in 48 games, averaging 0.6 points and 0.3 assists in 2.4 minutes.

Ishbia has been mentioned before as a possible buyer of pro franchises, and he is a prominent Michigan State donor. He helped fund the $95 million deal that the Spartans gave football coach Mel Tucker last year. He played in 48 games for Izzo during his time as a walk-on guard in East Lansing.

Ishbia in November confirmed to the AP his interest in buying the NFL’s Washington Commanders after owners Dan and Tanya Snyder hired a firm to explore potential transactions. It was not immediately clear if buying the Suns would take him out of the process with the Commanders.

Sarver, who bought the Suns for $401 million from Jerry Colangelo in 2004, announced in September that he will sell the organization, citing it is “what’s best” after the NBA suspended him and fined him on findings of workplace behavior that included racist language, misogyny and bullying.

Sarver said that he first expected to reflect and self-improve himself during a one-year suspension from the team, but the “unforgiving climate” made it clear a return will not allow for the teams to move forward.

The NBA in September suspended Sarver one year and fined him the maximum $10 million after concluding an investigation into allegations he used racist and misogynistic language in the workplace.

PayPal took the notable step of announcing it would not renew its partnership with the Suns — it owns ad space on the team jersey — if Sarver were to return.

Interviewing 320 individuals and evaluating more than 80,000 documents, the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz concluded in an investigation that Sarver “clearly violated common workplace standards” including “use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees, sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying.”

Wachtell, Lipton Rosen & Katz said that the “investigation makes no finding that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus.”

The full report by Wachtell, Lipton Rosen & Katz can be viewed here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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