The Phoenix Suns finally found a new owner, which can hopefully spawn a new era for the franchise. Billionaire and President of United Wholesale Mortgage Mat Ishbia purchased the Phoenix Suns and Mercury yesterday for $4B. This amount totals the largest in NBA history, surpassing Joe Tsai’s purchase of the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. Not only is Ishbia now the youngest owner in the NBA at only 42, but he also has a preexisting history of basketball playing for the Michigan State Spartans winning a National Championship, and appearing in 3 Final Fours. I am hoping the scrappiness displayed on the court can translate over to the push for an NBA Title for the Suns (Cluff, 2022).
However, not only is Ishbia’s success translated onto a basketball court, but also in building a business. His company United Wholesale Mortgage had 12 employees when he joined with his father, which grew to 7,200 employees after taking over as CEO in 2013 and is the number one mortgage lender in America. Ishbia has a history of taking care of his employees whether that is through stock options after the company went public last year, or incentives such as raffle tickets that can be exchanged for prizes such as free groceries, home remodeling, etc.
In terms of the purchase of the team, the deal is not finalized for Ishbia to become majority owner of both clubs quite yet. This also leads to the question of which minority stakeholders will be retained through the purchasing process, in which everything is supposed to be finalized “In the near future” (Cluff, 2022). Speaking of spending money, Ishbia’s generosity towards the funding of athletic departments is nothing short of generous with a prominent example in the form of the $32 million donation to the MSU Athletic Department which helped support the hiring of Football Head Coach Mel Tucker, and his lucrative $95 million contract in 2021 (Cluff, 2022). Suns fans can hopefully finally get their hopes up again in regards to an owner willing to spend on the team in order to create a championship-caliber roster.
Another notable happening involving Ishbia and NBA owners and company culture is his feud with Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert. Not only are they major competitors within the same industry with Gilbert being the founder of Rocket Mortgage, but Ishbia had major disagreements with how the company was being operated. More specifically, in regards to Gilbert laying off 2,000 employees in an effort to save capital, Ishbia publically made it known why United Wholesale Mortgage is a differentiator in how they treat their employees. It is also important to consider both billionaires are MSU alumni, which will be interesting to see how their rivalry pans out with both now being owners of NBA teams.
Regardless, the consensus is this purchase is a major upgrade by default from Sarver’s reign on the team. It was also announced that his brother Justin will be a part of the ownership group as well, bringing the value of family to Phoenix. This opens a new chapter for both Suns and Mercury moving on from years of employee and personnel mistreatment. I personally am very excited about the prospect of new ownership and the new horizons in the distance in the reshaping of the franchise’s identity and leadership.
Welcome to Phoenix Mr. Ishbia, and who knows, maybe he could be an emergency fill-in at guard. Happy Holidays Suns Fans.
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