Billionaire mortgage lender Matt Ishbia is closing in on the purchase of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA. Mercury At a record price of $4 billion, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.
The deal, which is expected to be announced on Tuesday, will end the turmoil for owner Robert Sarver.
Eshbia is well-known and well-known in the league office, including commissioner Adam Silver, and has developed relationships with several NBA owners. He will need a background check and approval from the board of governors, but that is expected to be a formality, sources said.
Sources told ESPN that Justin Ishbia, a founding partner at Shore Capital, will make a significant investment and serve as an alternate buyer. He is Matt Ishbia’s brother.
The Suns’ record sellout marks a new day in the ever-increasing valuation of NBA teams. Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets for an NBA record $2.35 billion in 2019. Before that sale, Tillman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017. Steve Ballmer bought the LA Clippers in 2014 for $2 billion.
The Lakers’ minority stake was sold for more than the Suns’ $4 billion purchase, which was valued at $5 billion.
Ishbia, the president and CEO of Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage, has been pursuing NBA and NFL teams in recent years, and eventually struck a deal to own the Suns. Ishbia was a walk-on for Michigan State and part of the Spartans’ 2000 national championship team. He remains close to Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, and has previously donated $32 million to the basketball program.
The sale ends Sarver’s tenure with the Suns. He led the team in 2004 when he bought the team from Jerry Colangelo for $401 million.
Two members of the Suns’ ownership group told ESPN’s Baxter Homes that they heard about Ishbia’s purchase Tuesday and were surprised by the speed of the process.
An investment banking official familiar with the process told ESPN that a particularly motivated buyer — and one the league knows — could significantly accelerate a sale.
Jack Selby, managing director of TL Capital, and Jason Pressman, managing director of Shasta Ventures, made a $3 billion bid to buy Sun and Mercury. Ishbia’s bid “was news to us,” Holmes told ESPN.
“We haven’t heard from anyone involved in the process,” Selby and Pressman told ESPN.
Sarver announced the sale of the Suns and Mercury in mid-September, shortly after the NBA announced the results of a 10-month investigation into becoming the majority owner of the Suns.
The NBA detailed that investigation into New York’s Wachtel Lipton-led ESPN story in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misconduct during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.
Sarver was fined $10 million and suspended for one year as part of the league’s punishment, announced on Sept. 13, even as the increasingly angry Sun and Mercury announced they would be sold.
Sarver has selected investment bank Moellis & Company to handle the sale, and executives at the investment bank, which has handled the sale of professional sports franchises, previously told ESPN that they expect the final price of the transaction to be a record.
In September, Suns executive vice president and CFO Jim Pittman told team employees that a fully executed sale of the team could take six to nine months, a timeline that would stretch through the 2022-23 season, according to team sources.
But in recent weeks, team officials told ESPN that teams of potential candidates have been seen visiting team facilities. Sarver is the third owner of the franchise, but as the team’s managing partner, he has the authority to sell the entire team, sources told ESPN.