Mat Ishbia purchase of Suns likely to be approved before trade deadline
Mat Ishbia’s purchase of the Phoenix Suns is expected to be finalized before the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Baxter Holmes.
Arizona Sports confirmed through a source that the deal is likely to become official “soon.”
Holmes added a press conference to introduce Ishbia is scheduled for the morning of Feb. 8 in Phoenix.
Ishbia, a billionaire mortgage lender, agreed to buy the Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury from Sarver in December, but that becoming official is pending league approval.
ESPN reports his purchase is expected to be approved with a vote of the NBA’s Board of Governors within two weeks, in early February.
That would perhaps help the squad, led by president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones, work with more clarity at the trade deadline. Currently suspended owner Robert Sarver, his interim replacement Sam Garvin and Ishbia all have had separate connections to the day-to-day operations of the franchise of late, according to reporting done by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
On the court, Phoenix has incurred a series of injuries that saw it swing from out of the playoff picture at 12th place before a four-game winning streak has the team back to the seventh seed on Tuesday after a win against the Charlotte Hornets. The Suns will likely be attempting to bolster the rotation for a playoff run, but they also have longer-term salary cap questions to answer.
As in, it will be expensive to keep this core group together, and having the commitment from the future owner might allow Jones to act more aggressively.
The Suns also remain busy trying to trade Jae Crowder, who has not been with the team this season in the last year of his current deal. Though Sarver’s suspension limited him, the Suns were still required to run all trades of more than $10.8 million, the league average, through the current owner. Crowder’s contract of $10.2 million likely pushed any significant trades past that threshold, complicating matters.
Ishbia has already been meeting with team officials, according to Windhorst, a sign a takeover is expected in the near future. Ishbia attended his first Suns game on Jan. 19.
The NBA sale process includes background and financial checks of prospective owners. Ishbia also was required to meet with a committee of around 10 NBA owners before he must be approved by a three-fourths vote of the 29 total owners outside of Phoenix.
The agreement between Ishbia and Sarver said it values both teams at $4 billion and involves the sale of more than 50% ownership, including all of Sarver’s interest, according to a press release.
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.
Ishbia, 42, is chairman and CEO of mortgage lender United Wholesale Mortgage, based in Michigan. He will be the youngest NBA team owner. His net worth is $5.1 billion this year, according to Forbes.com.
The former Michigan State Spartan player won the men’s national title 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.
“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 a Dec. 20 release. “As a former collegiate basketball player and national champion, Mat has exactly the right spirit, commitment and resources to pursue championships.”
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 for one year and fined him a maximum $10 million after concluding an investigation into allegations he used racist and misogynistic language in the workplace.