12:22 p.m. ET
Billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia’s purchase of a controlling stake in the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury valued at $4 billion is expected to be official within the next two weeks, with Ishbia taking control before the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline, so team and league sources told ESPN.
The NBA Board of Governors is expected to ratify the purchase of Ishbia with 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 retains authority over signing, acquiring or trading players with salaries above the league-wide average the player lies , sources said.
The current average player salary is $10.8 million, and disgruntled forward Jae Crowder’s salary, for whom the team hasn’t found a deal, is $10.2 million.
Ishbia, who will become the official owner of the team through the February 9th trade deadline, will clear the way for him to oversee the team’s dealings 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 acquire majority stakes in both teams on December 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 US dollars. Ishbia’s group includes his 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 share and part of minority partners’ share. During a sale process, the NBA conducts criminal, financial, and background checks on proposed owners. Potential buyers must also meet with the league’s Advisory and Finance Committee — a group of nearly 10 owners — and be approved by a three-quarters majority of the 29 other NBA owners.
Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, has tracked NBA and NFL teams for the past several years and has signed a deal to own the Suns. He was a walk-on for Michigan State and part of the 2000 Spartans national championship team. He is closely associated with Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo and has previously donated $32 million to the basketball program.
On Friday, Ishbia attended his first Suns home game since agreeing to take a controlling interest in the team and sat 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 the place,” Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters. “Having him in place probably allows everyone to finally put a face to everything that’s been talked about that hasn’t officially happened, but it kind of lets everyone know that this is our guy.”
Williams told reporters that he met with Ishbia.
“It was brief, but everything I heard about Mat and his family and the way he runs his business was pretty cool to hear all of that,” Williams said. “Get a chance to talk to him [Friday] was something I was looking forward to, but I’m sure our fans will finally be able to say, hey, that’s our guy, and move on.”
The NBA commissioned its investigation, led by New York-based law firm Wachtell Lipton, following a November 2021 ESPN story detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.
As part of the league’s punishment announced Sept. 13, Sarver was fined $10 million and suspended for a year, though growing outrage led him to announce soon after that he would be selling the Suns and the Mercury .