PHOENIX (AP) — Mortgage executive and former Michigan State guard Mat Ishbia is the new majority owner of the Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. The NBA’s Board of Governors approved his plan to purchase the controlling stake of those franchises from Robert Sarver.
The league announced the approval Monday night, saying the transaction will be finalized later this week. The vote was 29-0, with the Cleveland Cavaliers abstaining. This is according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the final decision had not yet been announced publicly.
Ishbia agreed on Dec. 20 to the deal, one that put the total value of the Suns and Mercury at $4 billion. Ishbia and his brother Justin said then that they would be acquiring more than 50% of the franchises. This includes the entirety of the embattled Sarver’s share as well as some holdings from minority partners.
Mat Ishbia will be the Suns’ governor, Justin Ishbia will be alternate governor. They now can assume those roles just days before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. Moreover, the Suns find themselves squarely in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race.
There are tentative plans to introduce Mat Ishbia on Wednesday at a news conference in Phoenix.
Highest Value Sale in NBA History
No other sale in NBA history has been completed with a $4 billion valuation of the franchise involved. Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center for $3.3 billion in 2019. Tilman Fertitta purchased the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017.
Hours after Jason Rowley decided to leave the team, the sale was finalized, a person familiar with the matter told AP. That person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share Rowley’s resignation outside of the organization, said that the Suns organization internally communicated Rowley’s departure on Monday.
Mat Ishbia is the chairman, president and chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage, which bills itself as the nation’s largest mortgage lender. Before finalizing the transaction, he had to undergo a successful vetting process by the NBA, and then the league’s other owners voted for or against the move.
Forbes recently listed his net worth as just over $5 billion. Ishbia’s company went public in January 2021 and is a rival to Quicken Loans — the company that has Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert as its founder and chairman.
MSU Grad, Mat Ishbia, is the type of owner the NBA dreams.
Ishbia played at Michigan State under coach Tom Izzo. He was a member of the Spartans’ NCAA championship team in 2000.
The NBA suspended Sarver in September for one year. Additionally, they fined him $10 million after an investigation found he had engaged in what the league called “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies.”
The punishment came nearly a year after the NBA asked a law firm to investigate allegations that Sarver had a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents over his nearly two-decade tenure overseeing the franchise.
Shortly afterward, Sarver announced he would be looking to sell the Suns and the Mercury. He bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million, which at the time was an NBA record.
Ishbia is a prominent Michigan State donor. People have previously mentioned him as a potential buyer for professional franchises, such as the NFL’s Washington Commanders. For now, Ishbia will be putting his focus into bringing a championship to Phoenix.
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