Billionaire Mat Ishbia is closing in on a deal for the Phoenix Suns and Mercury in an agreement that will value the franchises at $4bn (£3.3bn).

Mortgage executive Ishbia has made a deal in principle with Robert Sarver, who is selling after being suspended for racist and sexist behaviour.

“Both teams have an incredibly dynamic fanbase. I have loved experiencing the energy of the Valley,” said Ishbia.

The deal would be a record for the purchase of an NBA team.

Ishbia’s investment in a controlling stake in the Suns and WNBA side the Mercury values the franchise at $4bn, more than the $3.3bn price tag that Joe Tsai’s deal put on the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center in 2019.

Ishbia played college basketball at Michigan State and was a fringe player in the team’s NCAA Championship win under the long-serving coach Tom Izzo in 2000.


“Basketball is at the core of my life, from my high school days as a player to the honour of playing for Coach Izzo and winning a national title at Michigan State University,” he added.

Ishbia’s arrival in the sport was welcomed by NBA great Magic Johnson, who also played for Michigan State, although in a different era.

“All of the other 29 NBA teams better watch out because Mat’s a winner!” Johnson wrote.

Ishbia said in November that he was considering a bid to buy American football’s Washington Commanders after he lost out in the bidding for fellow NFL side the Denver Broncos in August.

Current Phoenix owner Sarver was fined $10m and suspended from basketball for a year in September after an investigation into claims of racism and misogyny found he had “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards”.

He announced he was looking to sell the franchise shortly after, saying it was “the best course of action for everyone”.