Embattled Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is reportedly finalizing the team’s sale to billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia for roughly $4 billion, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Ishbia is an ex-Michigan State walk-on, who won an NCAA title with the Spartans in 2000 before becoming president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage.
The Suns have yet to confirm the sale, although it was expected following Sarver’s ongoing one-year, NBA-imposed suspension over allegations of racism. He was also fined $10 million by the league.
Sarver announced his plan to sell the club and the WNBA’s Mercury shortly after the NBA probe found he had used the N-word around employees, bullied workers, and committed several other misogynistic acts.
Embattled Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has reportedly sold the NBA franchise to billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia for roughly $4 billion, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski
In this Decemebr 12, 2015 file photo, ex-Michigan State players Mateen Cleaves, left, and Mat Ishbia laugh as they are introduced with Michigan State’s 2000 national championship team during halftime of the Michigan State-Florida NCAA college basketball game, in East Lansing
If and when the sale is finalized at $4 billion, it would be the largest team purchase in in league history. In 2019, billionaire Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets’ parent company, which included Barclays Center, for $3.3 billion. Tilman Fertitta scooped up the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017.
Ishbia is known to sports fans as one of the largest donors to the Spartans’ athletic department. Last year, he and United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) took advantage of new NCAA rules on student-athlete endorsements by providing more than 130 MSU athletes with $6,000 a year. The NCAA in July of 2021 said athletes could be paid for their name, image or likeness, now commonly referred to as NIL, ending a decades-long ban on endorsements.
Ishbia was a walk-on member of Michigan State’s 2000 national championship basketball team, coached by Hall of Famer Tom Izzo. Three former teammates, including star guard Mateen Cleaves, work for Ishiba at UWM.
‘Having access to resources like this would have made a huge difference in my career in a very positive way,’ Cleaves, a former Detroit Pistons guard, told the AP in 2021.
Ishbia announced a $32 million donation to MSU’s athletic program in February of 2021. Later in the year, the Spartans re-signed head football coach Mel Tucker to a 10-year, $95 million contract.
He was reportedly interested in purchasing an NFL team before the opportunity to buy the Suns came along.
UWM spokespeople did not immediately respond to an email request for confirmation from DailyMail.com.
Ishbia is an ex-Michigan State walk-on, who won an NCAA title with the Spartans in 2000 before becoming president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage
Suns players and coaches expressed disbelief in September over the NBA investigation findings that led to Sarver’s one-year suspension and $10 million fine, with head coach Monty Williams admitting that he was ‘disgusted’ over the claims.
Sarver announced his plan to sell the club and the WNBA’s Mercury after the NBA found credible allegations of racism and sexism. In one instance, Sarver is accused of asking a pregnant employee if she would be able to perform her duties after giving birth.
‘I would say just a state of shock,’ general manager and team president James Jones said at the time. ‘You don’t want that around the organization. You don’t want that to be the issue.’
Veteran Suns guard Chris Paul said he was concerned about what Suns employees have been dealing with.
‘It was tough, just like anybody, reading all the different things,’ said Paul, admitting that he had been in touch with NBA commissioner Adam Silver over the allegations. ‘It was more so also the things that people have to endure in the workplace.’
Sarver announced his plan to sell the club and the WNBA’s Mercury after the NBA found credible allegations of racism and sexism. In one instance, Sarver is accused of asking a pregnant employee if she would be able to perform her duties after giving birth
No fewer than six people informed NBA investigators that they heard Sarver use the N-word while quoting, or purporting to quote, others.
But as Williams stressed in September, the context of his use of the N-word is irrelevant.
‘That word, I don’t like it, never have,’ Williams said. ‘Especially when I was younger and I learned what that word meant. I learned how demeaning it was toward humanity, not just black folks.
‘And when I saw the report, I was not happy about it, quite frankly, disgusted. It’s not a word you repeat anytime. And when you read the report, you read the bullet points and you see it over and over again in that way, it bothers you.’
Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi and jersey sponsor PayPal both urged Sarver to sell the team after the allegations surfaced. PayPal threatened to end its sponsorship agreement with the team if he refused.