Another American sports franchise has been sold for yet another record price.
Mat Ishbia, a billionaire mortgage lender, is finalizing the purchase of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury for $4 billion, a record for an NBA team, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday.
Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a Michigan-based company, was a walk-on for Michigan State and part of the Spartans’ 2000 national championship team.
The sale could be approved as early as Tuesday and would end the tumultuous Robert Sarver era for the Suns, which dates to 2004 when Sarver bought the team from Jerry Colangelo. Sarver announced the sale in September 2022 after the NBA announced the findings of a 10-month investigation into Sarver’s conduct. In November 2021, ESPN reported allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.
They add to a recent surge in franchise sales prices. Here’s a list of some of the most expensive franchise purchases in U.S. sports:
Sale price: $4.65 billion
The Walton-Penner group’s pending $4.65 billion purchase of the Broncos breaks the previous record sale price for an NFL team by a wide margin. Former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson sold the franchise to billionaire David Tepper for $2.275 billion in 2018. It’s also over $2 billion more than the next closest U.S. sports team sale.
Walton’s net worth is $57.9 billion, according to Forbes. His cousin and another Walmart heir, Ann Walton, is the wife of Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Kroenke also owns three Colorado sports teams: the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and MLS’s Colorado Rapids.
Phoenix Suns and Mercury
Sale price: $4 billion
The combined sale set a new high-water mark for NBA franchises by more than $1.5 billion compared to what the Brooklyn Nets sold for in 2019.
According to Woj, Ishbia has been pursuing deal to buy an NFL or NBA team before securing the Suns. Forbes has Ishbia’s net worth at $4.9 billion. He is expected to to get a significant investment from his brother, Justin Ishbia, a founding partner in Shore Capital.
Sale price: $2.4 billion
The Mets had the honor of having the most expensive team sale in American sports until the Broncos came along. In 2020, hedge fund manager Steve Cohen purchased the Mets for $2.4 billion. The Los Angeles Dodgers previously held the mark for the most expensive MLB team sale when they sold for $2 billion in 2012.
Cohen is the founder of Point 72 Asset Management and now-defunct SAC Capital Advisors.
Sale price: $2.35 billion
In 2019, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai bought the Nets for $2.35 billion from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Tsai already had 49% ownership from Prokhorov in 2018 but accelerated the timeline for full ownership. Along with the then-record purchase for Brooklyn, Tsai also purchased Barclays Center, the Nets’ home arena, in a separate transaction for roughly $1 billion.
Sale price: $2.275 billion
The Panthers became available for sale after the 2017 NFL season after sexual harassment and workplace misconduct accusations were made against former owner Richardson. Tepper, whose net worth is $16.7 billion according to Forbes, bought the team for $2.275 billion. Before taking over Carolina, Tepper had a 5% ownership stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sale price: $2.2 billion
Former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander sold the team to Texas native and billionaire Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion in 2019. Fertitta grew up in Galveston, Texas, and was a regular attendant at Houston’s games before buying the franchise.
According to his website, he is the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, which owns the restaurant giant Landry’s, the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels and the Rockets. Fertitta also has his own TV show on CNBC called “Million Dollar Buyer.”