Billionaire mortgage 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 within the next two weeks, with Ishbia taking control ahead of the NBA trade deadline. as of Feb. 9, team and league sources told ESPN.
The NBA Board of Governors is expected to ratify the Ishbia purchase in a vote in early February, sources said.
Although the league suspended former Suns majority owner Robert Sarver in September after a 10-month NBA investigation into his conduct as owner, he retained authority over signing, acquiring or signing. Trade any player whose salary 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, who the team didn’t agree to, is $10.2 million.
Ishbia becoming the team’s official owner ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline will pave the way for him to oversee the team’s deals with the front office. Ishbia is eager to begin his involvement in basketball operations and is expected to be a hands-on owner when it comes to team building, sources said.
Ishbia agreed to buy majority stakes in both teams on Dec. 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 her 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 stake plus some of that of the minority partners. During a sale process, the NBA performs criminal, financial, and background checks on the proposed owners. Potential buyers must also meet with the league’s advisory and financial committee — a group of nearly 10 owners — and be approved by a three-quarters vote of the NBA’s other 29 owners.
Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, has sued NBA and NFL teams in recent years and struck a deal to own the Suns. He was an extra for Michigan State and was part of the Spartans national championship team in 2000. He remained close with Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo and he once donated $32 million 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 in place,” Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters. “Having him on the pitch probably allows everyone to finally put a face to everything that’s been talked about and what hasn’t officially happened, but it kind of lets everyone know that he’s our guy.”
Williams told reporters he met Ishbia.
“It was short, but everything I heard about Mat and his family and how he runs his business was pretty cool to hear it all,” Williams said. “Get a chance to talk to her [Friday] was something I was looking forward to, but I’m sure our fans can finally say, hey, he’s our guy and move on.”
The NBA commissioned its investigation, led by New York law firm Wachtell Lipton, following an ESPN article in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as a 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.