Top mortgage executive Mat Ishbia has agreed in principle to buy a majority stake in the Phoenix Suns and the same-place Mercury from Robert Sarver for US$4 billion, the parties announced Tuesday.
Posted at 5:03 p.m.
Updated at 8:38 p.m.
The sale should not be finalized for several weeks, however.
CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, which bills itself as the largest mortgage lender in the United States, Ishbia will be subject to an NBA vetting process.
Once this transaction is completed, the league’s board of governors will have to approve the sale.
The council is not expected to meet in person until March, but it could meet virtually before then.
Forbes recently listed Ishbia’s net worth at $5.1 billion.
Ishbia played basketball with Michigan State, being part of the Spartans’ champion edition in 2000.
I am extremely excited to be the next governor of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. Both teams have an incredibly vibrant fan base. In recent months, I have loved discovering the energy there is in the region.
Mat Ishbia quoted in a press release
“Basketball has been at the heart of my life since high school. In the NCAA, I had the honor of playing for Tom Izzo and winning a national title.
“I’ve spent the past two decades building UWM into the premier mortgage lender in the United States. I’m confident we can bring the same level of success to the Suns and Mercury, on and off the field. »
If the sale closes at $4 billion, it would be the biggest buy in NBA history.
Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center for $3.3 billion in 2019, and Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017.
The only other NBA team known to have been sold for $2 billion or more was the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer in 2014.
“I had a great call with Mat Ishbia congratulating him on his purchase of the Suns,” Magic Johnson, another former Spartan, tweeted on Tuesday.
“He’s going to do great things not just for the Suns, but for the whole league. The other 29 teams better watch out: Mat is a winner! »
Justin Ishbia, Mat’s brother, will also be part of the ownership group, pending approval. Mat Ishbia will be the team governor, Justin the alternate governor.
Based in Pontiac, Michigan, United Wholesale Mortgage has a recreational basketball program with a full gymnasium.
In September, the NBA suspended Sarver for one year and fined him $10 million in connection with “workplace misconduct and organizational shortcomings,” according to the league.
The sanction 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 nearly 20 years at the head of the organization.
Soon after, Sarver announced that he would be looking to sell the Suns and the Mercury.
Sarver bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million, then an NBA record.
“Mat is the right leader to maintain the winning traditions of the Suns and Mercury,” Sarver said.
“As a former college basketball player and national champion, Mat has exactly the spirit, commitment and resources to go after championships. »
Ishbia has already been mentioned as a possible buyer of professional clubs. He is a major contributor to Michigan State.
“It’s 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 bringing his incredible business acumen and shared passion for basketball,” said said Ishbia.
“I appreciate Robert Sarver’s time and support throughout the process. We are very honored to become, with the approval of the NBA, the next leading heads of the Suns and the Mercury. »