Mat Ishbia completes purchase of Suns for $4 billion

Mat Ishbia completes purchase of Suns for $4 billion

Billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia is finalizing the purchase of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA Mercury for a record price of $4 billion, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

The deal, which is expected to be announced as soon as Tuesday, will end the tumultuous tenure of owner Robert Sarver.

Ishbia is well-known and well-regarded in the league front office, including with commissioner Adam Silver, and has developed relationships with several NBA owners. He will have to undergo a background check and a vote of approval by the board of governors, but that is expected to be a process, the sources said.

Justin Ishbia, a founding partner of Shore Capital, will make a major investment and serve as an alternate governor, sources told ESPN. He is Mat Ishbia’s brother.

The record sale of the Suns marks a new day in the rising valuations of NBA teams. Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets for an NBA record $2.35 billion in 2019. Prior to this sale, Tilman Fertitta purchased the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017, with Steve Ballmer buying the LA Clippers for $2 billion in 2014.

The Lakers had a minority stake sold for a higher valuation than the $4 billion purchase of the Suns, bringing it to a $5 billion valuation.

Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, has been chasing NBA and NFL teams in recent years and eventually struck a deal to own the Suns. Ishbia was a walk through State of Michigan and part of the Spartans’ 2000 national championship team. He has remained close to Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo and previously donated $32 million to the basketball program.

The sale will end Sarver’s tenure with the Suns, which dates back to 2004, when he led a group to buy the team for a record $401 million from Jerry Colangelo.

Two current members of the Suns’ ownership group told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes that they learned of Ishbia’s impending purchase on Tuesday and were surprised by the speed of the process.

An investment banking official familiar with the process told ESPN that a particularly motivated buyer — and one the league knows about — can greatly accelerate the sale.

Jack Selby, the CEO of Thiel Capital, and Jason Pressman, who is the CEO of Shasta Ventures, had submitted a $3 billion bid to buy the Suns and Mercury. They told ESPN’s Holmes that Ishbia’s offer “was news to us.”

“We haven’t heard from anyone involved in the process,” Selby and Pressman told ESPN. “If we had been involved, we would have made a great group.”

Sarver announced on September 21 that he would sell the Suns and Mercury in mid-September, shortly after the The NBA announced its findings from a 10-month investigation in his conduct as majority owner of the Suns.

The NBA commissioned this investigation, led by the New York law firm Wachtell Lipton, following a ESPN History in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.

As part of the league’s punishment, announced on September 13, Sarver was fined $10 million and suspended for one year, though growing outrage led him to announce he was selling the Suns and Mercury soon after .

Sarver chose investment bank Moelis & Company to oversee the sale, and investment bank officials who have handled sales of professional sports franchises previously told ESPN they expected the final price of the transaction to set a record .

In September, Suns executive vice president and CFO Jim Pitman told team employees that a fully executed sale of the team could take six to nine months, team sources said at the time, a timeline which would extend through the 2022-23 season.

But in recent weeks, team employees told ESPN that groups of potential bidders were seen visiting team facilities. Sarver owns a third of the franchise, but has the authority as the team’s managing partner to sell the team in its entirety, sources told ESPN.

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