Billionaire Mat Ishbia set to buy Suns for around $4 billion
Mat Ishbia already has a championship ring — an NCAA basketball title one he earned as a reserve guard for the Michigan State Spartans under Tom Izzo in 2000.
Now he’s going to chase an NBA ring as the new owner of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. Ishbia has agreed to buy the Suns from Robert Sarver for a reported $4 billion, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by Ishiba himself.
“I am extremely excited to be the next Governor of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Ishbia said in a statement Tuesday night. “Both teams have an incredibly dynamic fan base and I have loved experiencing the energy of the Valley over the last few months.
“Basketball is at the core of my life, from my high school days as a player to the honor of playing for Coach Izzo and winning a national title at Michigan State University. I’ve spent the last two decades building my mortgage business, United Wholesale Mortgage, into the number one mortgage lender in America and I’m confident that we can bring that same level of success to these great organizations on and off the floor.”
That sale price would blow away the old record paid for an NBA team of $3.3 billion (what Joe Tsai paid for the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center where they play).
After being a walk-on at Michigan State, Ishbia made billions as the chairman and CEO of the nation’s largest mortgage lender, United Wholesale Mortgage, formally called UWM Holdings. Mat’s father Jeff founded the business in 1986 and it has grown to be one of the largest mortgage lenders in the United States, worth a reported $7 billion. Ishbia is worth a reported $5.1 billion.
Mat is bringing in his brother Justin — also a billionaire and part-owner of UWM — as a co-owner and alternate governor for the team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Sarver agreed to sell the team after an investigation into his running of the Suns’ franchise had led to a hostile work environment and sexual harassment claims. NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Sarver $10 million (the max he could do) and suspended Sarver for a year — which was a slap on the wrist — but as pressure from sponsors and other NBA owners mounted, Sarver chose to step away.
And take the cash — Sarver purchased the Suns in 2004 for a then-record $401 million. Sarver had other investors in the team, but under the contract, he had sole control over the team’s sale (and the other owners had to abide by his decision).
There is no timeline for the sale and it has to be approved by the other owners, but this likely will move quickly. Ishbia has been one of the people in line looking at NBA franchises when they went up for sale (the same is true of the NFL).
One side note here (as Bill Simmons mentioned on Twitter): This sale now sets the price for potential expansion teams later this decade (likely in Seattle and Las Vegas). Silver and others with the league have said expansion is not formally on the table right now, but the expectation is that once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and a new national television/streaming deal are locked down, the league will turn to expansion. That price just got a lot more expensive.