Sources: Ishbia finalizes $4 billion purchase of Suns

Billionaire mortgage lender Matt Ichpeia is in the process of finalizing the purchase of the WNBA’s Phoenix Suns and Mercury for a record $4 billion, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

The deal, expected to be announced on Tuesday, will end a turbulent period for owner Robert Sarver.

Ishbia is well known and well respected in the league office, including with Commissioner Adam Silver, and has developed relationships with a number of NBA owners. He will have to undergo a background check and approval vote from the Board of Governors, sources said, but it is expected to be a formality.

Sources told ESPN that Justin Ishpia, co-founder of Shore Capital, will be making the major investment and serving as an alternative governor. He is the brother of Matt Ishpia.

The Suns record sale marks another day in the spiraling valuation of NBA teams. Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets for $2.35 billion in 2019. Prior to this sale, Tillman Fertita bought the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017, with Steve Ballmer buying the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion in 2014.

A minority stake in the Lakers was sold for a higher valuation than the $4 billion purchase of the Suns, resulting in a $5 billion lower valuation.

Eshpia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, has been tracking NBA and NFL teams in recent years and finally reached a deal to own the Suns. Eshbia was a walk-on for Michigan State and part of the Spartans’ 2000 national championship team. He has remained close to Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, and previously donated $32 million to the basketball program.

The sale would end Sarver’s tenure with the Suns, which dates back to 2004, when he led a group to purchase the team for $401 million from Jerry Colangelo.

Sarver announced on September 21 that he would sell the Suns and the Mercury in mid-September shortly after the NBA announced its findings from a 10-month investigation into his conduct as majority owner of the Suns.

The NBA commissioned that investigation, led by New York-based law firm Wachtell Lipton, in the wake of a November 2021 ESPN story detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.

As part of the league’s penalty, announced on September 13, Sarver was fined $10 million and suspended for a year, though growing outrage led him to announce he was selling the Suns and the Mercury soon after.

Sarver has tapped investment bank Moelis & Company to oversee the sale, and investment bankers who previously managed sales of professional sports franchises told ESPN they expect the deal’s final price to set a record.

In September, Suns executive vice president and chief financial officer Jim Pittman informed team employees that a fully executed sale of the team could take six to nine months, team sources said at the time, a schedule that extends into the 2022-23 season.

But in recent weeks, team employees have told ESPN that groups of potential bidders have been seen touring the team’s facilities. Sarver owns about a third of the franchise, but has the authority as the team’s managing partner to sell the team outright, sources told ESPN.

ESPN’s Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.

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