google-site-verification=0bx1QYafX4YUxAV2RLbOiDD2WzOMRAju_YMPZqdCR1E Phoenix Suns and Mercury to be acquired by Mat Ishbia for $4 billion

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Phoenix Suns and Mercury to be acquired by Mat Ishbia for $4 billion

According to people who were familiar with the negotiations but were not authorized to discuss them publicly, Mat Ishbia, the chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage, is close to reaching an agreement to acquire a majority stake in both the N.B.A.'s Phoenix Suns and the W.N.B.A.'s Phoenix Mercury in a deal that values the teams at $4 billion.

An N.B.A. investigation found that Robert Sarver, the majority owner of the teams, had mistreated employees over many years, including by using racist language, and that he would sell them in September.

ESPN first reported the pending deal, which will not be finalized until the N.B.A.'s board of governors approves it.

The $4 billion price tag would set a league record and is roughly ten times higher than what a group led by Sarver paid for the teams in 2004. In 2019, Joe Tsai paid $2.35 billion for the entire Nets franchise, making it the previous highest price. After the sale of the Denver Broncos of the National Football League earlier this year for $4.65 billion, this is the second-most expensive acquisition of an American sports team in history.

When asked for their opinions, spokespersons for the Suns, Mercury, and United Wholesale Mortgage did not immediately respond.

In September, the N.B.A. suspended Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million — the most extreme permitted — after an examination found that he had utilized racial slurs and treated female workers unjustly over numerous years. The discipline created huge reaction, with players and fans saying that it was not sufficiently brutal. Sarver declared he would sell the Phoenix basketball teams in the face of that pressure, citing an "unforgiving climate."

Ishbia, 42, a former Michigan State men's basketball player, has long desired to purchase a professional sports team. He said last month that he wanted to buy the Washington Commanders of the National Football League. Before the Broncos were sold to the Walton and Penner families in June, he had also bid on them.

Ishbia spent the past two months in Phoenix to better understand the market, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. He began researching the Suns organization after Sarver decided to sell his stake. According to the person, Ishbia decided to pursue the purchase of the team aggressively after "falling in love" with the market. According to the person, Ishbia would not relocate to Phoenix if he is approved to purchase the team. He currently resides in the Detroit area, where United Wholesale Mortgage is headquartered.

According to two people with knowledge of the negotiations, Ishbia's brother Justin Ishbia, a managing partner at the Chicago-based investing firm Shore Capital, will be an investor in the deal and a member of the management team.

Mat Ishbia won a national championship in 2000 as a guard for Michigan State. He told Crain's Detroit Business in 2020 that he was the "fourteenth best player in a 14-man group." Ishbia began working for United Wholesale Mortgage, which his father, Jeff Ishbia, founded in 1986, after completing business school at Michigan State in 2003. In 2021, United Wholesale Mortgage went public.