Billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia’s purchase of a majority stake in the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury at a valuation of $4 billion is expected to become official in the next two weeks, with Ishbia taking over before the closing date. NBA trade on Feb. 9, team and league sources told ESPN.
The NBA’s board of governors is expected to ratify the Ishbia purchase with a vote in early February, the sources said.
The press conference to introduce Ishbia is scheduled for the morning of February 8, according to team sources.
Although the league suspended former Suns majority owner Robert Sarver in September after a 10-month NBA investigation into his conduct as owner, it has retained authority over the signing, acquisition or trade of any player with a salary higher than the average salary for a player in the entire league. the sources said.
The current average player salary is $10.8 million, and the salary of disgruntled forward Jae Crowder, for whom the team hasn’t found a deal, is $10.2 million.
Ishbia, who becomes the team’s official owner before the February 9 trade deadline, will pave the way for him to oversee the team’s deals with the front office. Ishbia is eager to start involving him in basketball operations and is expected to be a hands-on owner on team building issues, the sources said.
Ishbia agreed to buy majority stakes in both teams on December 20, ending Sarver’s nearly two-decade tenure as owner, a position Sarver held after leading a group to buy the Suns in 2004 for a then-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 share from minority partners. During a sale process, the NBA performs criminal, financial, and background checks on proposed owners. Prospective buyers must also meet with the league’s financial and advisory committee, a group of nearly 10 owners, and be approved by a three-quarters vote of the NBA’s 29 other owners.
Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, has been scouting NBA and NFL teams in recent years and has reached a deal to own the Suns. He was a walk-on for Michigan State and part of the Spartans’ national championship team in 2000. He has remained close to Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo and previously made a $32 million donation to the basketball program.
On Friday, Ishbia attended his first Suns home game since agreeing to buy a majority 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,” Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters. “Having him on the court probably allows everyone to finally put a face to everything that’s been talked about and hasn’t officially happened, but it lets everyone know that this is our man.”
Williams told reporters that he met with Ishbia.
“It was brief, but everything I’ve heard about Mat and his family and the way he runs his business has been very good to hear all of that,” Williams said. “Getting a chance to talk to him [Friday] It was something I’ve been waiting for, 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-year ownership.
As part of the league’s punishment, announced on September 13, Sarver was fined $10 million and suspended for one year, though mounting outrage led him to announce that he would sell the Suns and Mercury shortly thereafter.