Today, the news that the Phoenix Suns will finally be sold is promising for the team and fans, especially given the new potential owner.
It has been a terrific and tumultuous time to be a member of the Phoenix Suns organization or a team fan. On the one hand, the Suns are a good team led by a young superstar with a strong coach and general manager. On the other hand, the Suns are run by an owner who has done more in his tenure to upset the apple cart than he has to make the team better.
Just one day after the latest ESPN report about the poor workplace culture in downtown Phoenix, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The good news for the Suns’ organization and fans is that for once, it is the unlikeable owner who is leaving, while the coach, GM, and superstar stay, helped all the more by the man purchasing the team.
Mat Ishbia knows two things well, business and basketball
Except for Michael Jordan in Charlotte, most of the NBA owners are not basketball players – Shaquille O’Neal’s 2% stake in Sacramento aside – they are businessmen. The reported soon-to-be new owner of the Phoenix Suns and WBNA Phoenix Mercury is both.
For the last 20 years, Ishbia has worked in a small family owned-mortgage business, United Wholesale Mortgage, and turned it into a national powerhouse. From 12 employees in his dad’s company to more than 7,500 in the business Mat runs today. UWM has been the largest wholesale mortgage lender in the United States since 2015 (Forbes).
UMW was recently taken public, creating much of the capital that made Mat and his brother Justin, both billionaires. However, that money is mainly tied up in the form of stocks, and the specifics behind the financing of the $4 billion have not been released. Still, we should expect some other investors to be included and a lot of equity to be used, not some giant multi-billion dollar cash transaction.
While the business side of the deal is significant, maybe more significant for Phoenix Suns fans is that Ishbia knows basketball and is a former player. Ishbia was a three-year walk-on at Michigan State under Tom Izzo and even served a year on Izzo’s staff. That understanding of the game and being the youngest majority owner in the league at just 42 should excite fans, who want someone that will do whatever it takes to win, not just wave a foam finger at halfcourt.
Ultimately, a deal this big is going to take some time, but if the NBA owners approve it, Ishbia should be the next Suns’ owner, which at a minimum, will end a far too tumultuous era in Phoenix Suns history. Now it is on to face the Wizards!