Another American sports franchise sold for another record price.
Mat Ishbia, a billionaire mortgage lender, is completing the purchase of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury from the WNBA 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 2000 Spartans national championship team.
The sale could be approved as early as Tuesday and would end the Suns’ tumultuous Robert Sarver era, which dates back to 2004 when Sarver bought Jerry Colangelo’s team. Sarver announced the September 2022 sale after the NBA announced the results 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.
The sale of the Suns and Mercury is the second record-breaking franchise sale of 2022. In June, the Denver Broncos sold for $4.65 billion, a record for a North American franchise.
They are contributing to a recent increase in franchise selling prices. Here is a list of some of the most expensive franchise purchases in US esports:
Selling price: $4.65 billion
The upcoming $4.65 billion purchase of the Broncos by the Walton-Bum Group far exceeds the previous record sale price for an NFL team. Former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson sold the franchise to billionaire David Tepper in 2018 for $2.275 billion. It’s also over $2 billion more than the closest sale by a US sports team.
Walton’s net worth is $57.9 billion, according to Forbes. His cousin and another Walmart heiress, Ann Walton, is the wife of Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Kroenke also owns three Colorado sports teams: the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and the MLS’s Colorado Rapids.
Phoenix Suns and Mercury
Selling price: 4 billion dollars
The combined sale set a new high for NBA franchises of more than $1.5 billion compared to what the Brooklyn Nets sold for in 2019.
According to Woj, Ishbia pursued a deal to buy an NFL or NBA team before securing the Suns. Forbes estimates Ishbia’s net worth at $4.9 billion. He is expected to receive a significant investment from his brother Justin Ishbia, a founding partner of Shore Capital.
Selling price: $2.4 billion
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file)
The Mets had the honor of having the most expensive team sale in American sports until the Broncos showed up. In 2020, hedge fund manager Steve Cohen bought the Mets for $2.4 billion. The Los Angeles Dodgers previously held the brand 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 the now defunct SAC Capital Advisors.
Selling price: $2.35 billion
In 2019, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai bought the networks from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov for $2.35 billion. Tsai already owned 49% of Prokhorov’s shares in 2018, but accelerated the timeline for full acquisition. Along with Brooklyn’s then-record purchase, Tsai also acquired Barclays Center, the Nets’ home arena, for approximately $1 billion in a separate transaction.
Brooklyn isn’t the only New York-based sports team to own Tsai. He bought the WNBA’s New York Liberty franchise in January 2019.
Selling price: $2.275 billion
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
The Panthers were put up for sale after the 2017 NFL season following allegations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct against former owner Richardson. Tepper, whose net worth is $16.7 billion according to Forbes, bought the team for $2.275 billion. Before acquiring Carolina, Tepper owned a 5% stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Appaloosa founder also spent $325 million in 2019 to bring his 30th team, Charlotte FC, to MLS.
Selling price: $2.2 billion
Former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander sold the team to Texas native and billionaire Tilman Fertitta in 2019 for $2.2 billion. Fertitta grew up in Galveston, Texas and regularly attended Houston games before buying the franchise.
According to his website, he is the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, which owns restaurant giant Landry’s, Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels, and the Rockets. Fertitta also has his own TV show on CNBC called Million Dollar Buyer.