Mat Ishbia Buys Phoenix Suns, Mercury for Record $4 Billion

By | December 21, 2022

The NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury have a new owner after Mat Ishibia purchased majority stakes in both teams for a record $4 billion.

Mat Ishbia Phoenix Suns $4 billion sale Mercury
Mat Ishbia, seen here attending a Michigan State basketball game, agreed to buy the Phoenix Suns for $4 billion. (Image: AP)

The Suns and Mercery were up for sale by former majority owner Robert Sarver.

Ishbia is the CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, which is based out of Michigan. He’s a former walk-on basketball player at Michigan State who won a March Madness title in 2000 under head coach Tom Izzo.

I am extremely excited to be the next Governor of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” said Ishbia. “Both teams have an incredibly dynamic fan base and I have loved experiencing the energy of the Valley over the last few months.”

Ishbia had been trying to buy an NBA or NFL franchise in recent years. The timing of the Suns’ sale came at the right time. The NBA fined Sarver $10 million and suspended him for a year for promoting a toxic workplace and using racist language. As a result, Sarver decided to put his stake in the team up for sale.

Ishbia has to await final approval, but the impending sale of the Suns isn’t expected to encounter any resistance from the NBA, or from any current owners.

Suns Fetch Highest Price Tag in NBA History

Sarver announced his intention to sell the Suns and the Mercury in October. Later that month, Forbes valued the Suns at $2.7 billion and ranked them #13 in total valuation among all NBA teams.

The initial estimate was that the Suns would be worth at least $3 billion, with the sale price ballooning in a bidding war among the wealthiest people in the world. Bob Iger was one of the early favorites to buy the Suns. At the time, Iger was the former CEO and Chairman of Disney, but he’s since returned as CEO. Other interested parties included Laurene Powell Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Larry Ellison.

Sarver said he wanted to make sure the next owner would keep the Suns in Phoenix and not relocate the team to Seattle or elsewhere. He sold the Suns to Ishbia, who promised that he won’t move the team.

Sarver purchased the Suns in 2004 from former owner Jerry Colangelo. At the time, Sarver paid a record-setting $401 million for the Suns.

The sale of the Suns from Sarver to Ishbia eclipses the previous record-setting sale of the Brooklyn Nets. In 2019, Joe Tsai from Alibaba purchased the Nets for a record price of $2.35 billion.

Tsai edged out the sale of the Rockets to Tilman Fertitta in 2017, which was worth $2.2 billion. The $2 billion high-water mark was initially set by Steve Ballmer when he purchased the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010.

Suns Currently #4 Seed

If the NBA season ended right now, the Suns would earn the #4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 19-13 record. Only one game separates the top four teams in the West. The top-seeded Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies have the same record at 19-11, while the New Orleans Pelicans occupy the #3 seed with an 18-12 record.

With a 14-4 record at Footprint Center in Phoenix, the Suns have the best home record in the West and the second-best home record in the NBA behind the Boston Celtics at 14-3.

The Suns are currently in first place in the Pacific Division. The Clippers trail the Suns by one game in the divisional race. The upstart Sacramento Kings are in third place, but only 1.5 games behind the Suns.

The Suns are +1000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, according to DraftKings. In Western Conference odds, the Suns are +475 to win the conference for the second time in the past three seasons. The Suns are favorites at -180 to win the Pacific Division, and they’re ahead of the Clippers (+330), Kings (+750), Golden State Warriors (+1000), and LA Lakers (+4000).

Knicks Fans Giddy About Sarver Selling the Suns

Fans of the New York Knicks got a little excited about the record-breaking sale of the Suns. The legion of fans in the tri-state area loathes billionaire owner James Dolan, the scion of the Cablevision empire.

The Knicks were one of the top teams in the NBA before Dolan purchased them in the late 1990s. The team has struggled ever since. Like many teams with a universally hated owner, fans in the greater New York City area think their beloved Knicks are jinxed and will never win a championship until the team is sold to a new owner.

Dolan said he’d never sell the Knicks, which Forbes estimates is the second-most valuable team in the NBA, worth $6.1 billion even though they haven’t won a championship in over 50 years.

If the Suns sold for $4 billion, it seems possible that Dolan could fetch more than $7.5 billion for the Knicks. With the escalating costs of construction on his MSG Sphere project in Las Vegas reaching nearly $2.2 billion, Dolan could seriously consider selling the Knicks.

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