Sports

Mat Ishbia’s purchase of Suns, Mercury soon to be official

Billionaire lender Mat Ishbia’s purchase of a majority stake in the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury at a $4 billion valuation is expected to become official in the next two weeks, with Ishbia taking control before the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline, team and league sources told ESPN.

The NBA’s board of directors is expected to ratify Ishbia’s purchase with a vote in early February, sources said.

Although the league suspended former Suns majority owner Robert Sarver in September following a 10-month NBA investigation into his conduct as an owner, he has retained authority over signing, acquiring or trading any player with a salary that exceeds the league-wide average player salary . , sources said.

The current average player salary is $10.8 million, and the salary of disgruntled forward Jae Crowder, for whom the team has not found a deal, is $10.2 million.

Ishbia becoming the team’s official owner before the Feb. 9 trade deadline will pave the way for him to oversee the team’s dealings with the front office. Ishbia is eager to start his involvement with basketball operations and is expected to be a hands-on owner in matters of team building, sources said.

Ishbia agreed to buy controlling stakes in both teams on Dec. 20, ending Sarver’s nearly two decades as owner, a position Sarver held after leading a group that bought the Suns in 2004 for a record $401 million. Ishbia’s group includes his brother Justin, a founding partner of Shore Capital private equity.

The deal will give Ishbia more than 50% ownership of the teams, which includes Sarver’s share plus a portion of the minority partners. During a sale process, the NBA conducts criminal, financial and background checks on proposed owners. Potential buyers must also meet with the league’s advisory and finance committee — a group of nearly 10 owners — and be approved by a three-quarters vote of the 29 other NBA owners.

Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, has pursued NBA and NFL teams in recent years and landed a deal to own the Suns. He was a walk-on for Michigan State and part of the Spartans’ 2000 national championship team. He has been close to Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, and he previously made a $32 million donation to the basketball program.

On Friday, Ishbia attended his first Suns home game since agreeing to buy a controlling stake in the team, sitting courtside for the team’s win over the Brooklyn Nets at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix.

“I think it’s great for the team, the organization and the community to have someone like Mat in place,” Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters. “Having him at the farm probably gives everybody an opportunity to finally put a face to everything that’s been talked about and what hasn’t happened officially, but it kind of lets everybody know that this is our guy.”

Williams told reporters he met with Ishbia.

“It was short, but everything I’ve heard about Mat and his family and the way he runs his business, it’s been pretty cool to hear all that,” Williams said. “Getting a chance to talk to him (Friday) was something I was looking forward to, but I’m sure our fans can finally say, hey, that’s our guy and move on.”

The NBA commissioned its investigation, led by New York-based law firm Wachtell Lipton, in the wake of a November 2021 ESPN story 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, although growing outrage led him to announce he was selling the Suns and the Mercury soon after.

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