Billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia’s purchase of a majority stake in the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury at a $4 billion valuation is expected to become official in the next two weeks, with Ishbia assuming control before the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline, team and league sources told ESPN.
The NBA’s board of governors is expected to ratify Ishbia’s purchase 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 has retained authority over the signing, acquisition or trade of any player with a salary in excess of the leaguewide average player salary, sources said.
The current average player salary is $10.8 million, and the salary of disgruntled forward Jae Crowder, whom the team hasn’t found a deal for, is $10.2 million.
Ishbia becoming the team’s official owner by the Feb. 9 trade deadline will clear the way for him to oversee the team’s deals with the front office. Ishbia is eager to start his involvement with basketball operations and is expected to be a hands-on owner in matters of team building, sources said.
Ishbia agreed to purchase controlling stakes in both teams on Dec. 20, ending Sarver’s nearly two-decade tenure as owner, a position that Sarver held after leading a group to buy the Suns in 2004 for a then-record $401 million. 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 stake plus a portion of that of minority partners. During a sale process, the NBA performs criminal, financial and background checks on proposed owners. Prospective buyers also must meet with the league’s advisory and finance committee — a group of nearly 10 owners — and be approved by a three-fourths vote of the 29 other NBA owners.
Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, has been pursuing NBA and NFL teams in recent years and landed on a deal to own the Suns. He was a walk-on for Michigan State…