US billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia made his debut on Wednesday as owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, vowing to replace a scandal-struck workplace with one of America’s greatest atmospheres.
Ishbia, who played on Michigan State’s 2000 US college national champions, confirmed his record $4 billion purchase price for the Suns and Women’s NBA Phoenix Mercury.
“I couldn’t be more excited about it,” Ishbia said. “I look at it as a community asset. I’m not the owner of the Suns and Mercury. I’m the steward of it.”
Ishbia thanked fellow NBA team owners and the Phoenix community but also thanked Robert Sarver, the former owner who was pushed to sell the clubs after a workplace misconduct scandal.
An NBA investigation into bullying and intimitadion accusations found misogynist and racist actions in the Suns organization, with Sarver fined $10 million and suspended for a year.
After some sponsors said they would have to rethink supporting the team if Sarver remained as owner, Sarver announced last year he would sell the clubs.
“I do want to thank Robert Sarver,” Ishbia said. “He chose me to be the next owner and I think he did a really nice job of trying to think what was best for the community.”
Ishbia vowed a “team” culture for employees similar to what he uses in his mortgage firm.
“We’re going to make some changes and make this one of the best places to work across the country,” he said. “That’s a big part of success. You can’t win without happy people.”
The Suns, 30-26, rank fifth in the Western Conference after three wins in a row.
While saying he feels like the Suns “can compete now with exactly what we have,” he promised to spend on talent to keep the club a contender.
“I’m not going to be sitting here counting the dollars,” he said. “I’m going to look at how can we improve our team.”