Ownership of the Phoenix Suns basketball team will soon be switching hands. Billionaire mortgage executive Mat Ishbia is finalizing a purchase of the Phoenix Suns franchise in the near future, according to ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski.
Ishbia is chairman and CEO of Michigan-based mortgage lender United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM). He purchasing the franchise, which includes the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team, from Robert Sarver.
The Suns franchise was put up for sale by Sarver earlier this year after a tumultuous year for the current owner. Sarver was fined $10 million and suspended for one year following the NBA’s investigation into the owner’s workplace conduct — which stemmed from allegations of a culture of intolerance, harassment, discrimination.
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Sarver and Ishbia said the deal values the Suns and Mercury at $4 billion. Ishbia and his brother Justin, a founding partner of Shore Capital, will be buying Sarver’s 35% stake as well as a portion of the interests from minority stakeholders. In all, they’ll own more than 50% of the team.
Representatives for Ishbia did not state whether there were any investment partners on the deal or how the purchase was being financed.
“I’m extremely excited about becoming the next Governor of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, pending final league approval,” Ishbia said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Owning a sports franchise has been a lifelong dream of mine and I am honored to be able to fulfill that dream. This amazing opportunity in no way changes anything for UWM or my life here in the metro Detroit area. I will continue to live and raise my three children here, continue building UWM day to day alongside the current leadership team, stay rooted in the local community and advocate for Independent Mortgage Brokers nationally. The success and growth of the wholesale channel is my passion as well as building great organizations and I’m looking forward to bringing my passion and expertise to the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organization as well as the Phoenix community.”
HousingWire recently spoke with Desmond P. Smith, chief growth officer for United Wholesale Mortgage, about the transition from retail to wholesale for brokers and what the future of the independent broker channel holds.
Presented by: UWM
Ishbia joined UWM in 2003 after graduating from Michigan State University, where he was a walk-on player for the men’s basketball program under Head Coach Tom Izzo. The UWM CEO was backup point guard from 1998-2002 and won a national championship.
This isn’t Ishbia’s first attempt at purchasing a professional sports team, nor is it UWM’s first ties to college or professional sports. The UWM executive has pursued the purchase of a number of NBA and NFL teams in recent years, although none of his prior attempts were successful.
In June 2022, Mat Ishbia and his brother, Justin Ishbia, who owns 22% of UWM, were among four finalists in a bid to purchase the Denver Broncos, which had been up for grabs since February 2022. Other finalists included Josh Harris, owner of NBA Philadelphia 76ers and NHL New Jersey Devils; Rob Walton, son of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart; and Jose Feliciano, co-owner of Clearlake Capital.
The Broncos were ultimately sold to the Walton-Penner family ownership group for $4.65 billion in August 2022.
In 2021, UWM was announced as the jersey sponsor for the Detroit Pistons basketball team. The financial terms of that deal were not disclosed to the public.
UWM is also a frequent sponsor of Ishbia’s alma mater. In 2021, Ishbia made a $32 million donation to Michigan State for a new football building. Later that year, the CEO announced that UWM would sponsor all men’s basketball and football players with $500 dollar monthly stipends in return for the players advertising UWM on their social media pages.
The majority of Ishbia’s wealth is tied up in publicly traded UWM, which as of Tuesday afternoon had a market cap of about $6.44 billion.