Suns owner Robert Sarver has begun the process of seeking a buyer for his NBA franchise, as well as the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, he announced today in a statement.
Following the recent conclusion of an investigation into allegations made by current and former Suns employees, Sarver received a one-year suspension and was fined $10MM for workplace misconduct, including racist and misogynistic comments.
In today’s statement, Sarver said that his remarks and actions, as described in that investigation, now overshadow the work he has done with the Suns, the Mercury, and professional basketball in Phoenix.
“I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world,” Sarver said. “I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.”
While Sarver claimed that he “deeply” regrets the comments he made to employees and plans to “work on becoming a better person,” the statement also paints him as a victim — he expressed disappointment that he wouldn’t be able to “make amends” and return to the Suns following his one-year ban.
“In our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past,” Sarver said. “For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
The one-year suspension and $10MM fine levied against Sarver by the NBA was widely viewed as insufficient, with stars like LeBron James and Suns guard Chris Paul among those who expressed a belief that the league’s sanctions fell short. NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio subsequently stated that the players’ union felt as if Sarver should be banned from the league for life.
There was concern that imposing an indefinite ban on Sarver or attempting to force him out as the Suns’ owner would open the door to an ugly legal battle for the NBA. Sarver’s decision to willingly sell the franchise should bail out the league and his fellow owners, who would have had to vote to remove him if the NBA attempted to force him to sell.
Even if Sarver feels has no other choice but to sell, he stands to financially benefit in a major way. He bought the Suns for $401MM in 2004. Recent estimates from Forbes and Sportico projected the current value of the franchise at approximately $1.8-1.9 billion.
Those valuations have historically undershot a team’s true value, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Suns ultimately sell for $2 billion or more. As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets, league executives have long felt that Phoenix – a warm-weather destination not far from the West Coast – could become a “monster” free agent destination with the right ownership group in place.