Mat Ishbia, the former Michigan State University guard turned billionaire executive, is finalizing a purchase of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury from controversial owner Robert Sarver, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The deal is reportedly valued "in the neighborhood of $4 billion," a record price for the NBA.
Ishbia played three seasons as a walk-on at Michigan State, coming off the bench for a single minute apiece in the 2000 NCAA championship victory against Florida and a 2001 Final Four loss to Arizona.
Upon graduating in 2003, Ishbia worked for his father's lending company, United Wholesale Mortgage. He succeeded his father as president and CEO in 2013 at age 33 and took the company public at a valuation of $16.1 billion last year. Ishbia's brother, Justin, the founder of a Chicago-based private equity firm, will join the ownership group and serve as the Suns' alternate governor, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported.
Sarver announced plans to sell the Suns and Mercury in September, soon after the NBA published the findings of an independent investigation into allegations of racism, misogyny and other hostile workplace misconduct by the owner. The league suspended Sarver for the 2022-23 season and fined him $10 million for his behavior.
Sarver apologized and pledged to return to the NBA a better man next season, but public pressure — from the players' association, sponsors, his own ownership group and the league office — convinced him to sell.
"I expected that the commissioner's one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love," Sarver said in a statement in September, when he announced his intent to sell, eliding the investigation's determination that his misconduct spanned the entirety of his ownership from 2004 through ESPN's bombshell exposé in 2021. "But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible — that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past."
The projected $4 billion sale price of the Suns eclipses the record $2.35 billion that Joe Tsai paid for the Brooklyn Nets in 2019 and also marks a steep escalation from the $2 billion that Steve Ballmer paid for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 and $2.2 billion that Tilman Fertitta paid for the Houston Rockets in 2017.
Sarver's ownership group bought the Suns in 2004 from Jerry Colangelo for a then-record $401 million.
News of the sale agreement comes one day after ESPN's Baxter Holmes, who first reported the allegations against Sarver in November 2021, published another investigative report into alleged misconduct by current Suns executives, including team president and CEO Jason Rowley. The NBA is also investigating further.
Earlier this month, the Detroit Free Press won a lawsuit against Michigan State regarding a freedom of information inquiry into Ishbia's $32 million donation to the school's athletic department in February 2021. The judge ruled the university has until Friday to provide the publication with the documentation requested.
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