The Suns and Mercury deal, valued at $4 billion, sets the stage for the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, United Wholesale Mortgage and Rocket Mortgage, to be court rivals.

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The rivalry between the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders looks likely to continue on the basketball court, with the family behind United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) set to acquire a majority stake in the Phoenix Suns and its sister WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury.

UWM Chairman and CEO Mat Ishbia and his brother, Justin, have reached an agreement to purchase a majority stake in the teams from Suns Legacy Holdings in a deal that values the teams at $4 billion, pending approval by the NBA.

UWM overtook Rocket Mortgage as the biggest U.S. mortgage lender during the third quarter, after slashing rates in June to grow the company’s market share. Rocket Mortgage co-founder Dan Gilbert is the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Ishbia, who was a walk-on point guard for a Michigan State University team that won the 2000 NCAA championship, said basketball is “at the core of my life,” and called the deal a “dream come true for my entire family.”

Mat Ishbia

Mat Ishbia

“I’ve spent the last two decades building my mortgage business, United Wholesale Mortgage, into the number one mortgage lender in America and I’m confident that we can bring that same level of success to these great organizations on and off the floor,” Ishbia said, in a statement.

UWM’s predecessor, Shore Mortgage, was founded in 1986 by Jeff Ishbia, Justin and Mat Ishbia’s father. UWM was established as the wholesale division of Shore Mortgage in 2001. Mat Ishbia joined UWM in 2003 and was named CEO in 2013. The next year, UWM began doing business exclusively as a wholesaler, becoming the largest U.S. wholesale lender in 2015.

After UWM went public in a 2020 SPAC merger, the Ishbia family retained ownership of more than 90 percent of the company. Jeff, Justin and Mat Ishbia all serve on UWM’s board of directors, as does former Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas.

Robert Sarver, managing partner of Suns Legacy Holdings, the owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, called Ishbia the right leader to shepherd the teams into the next era.

“As a former collegiate basketball player and national champion, Mat has exactly the right spirit, commitment and resources to pursue championships,” Sarver said. “Equally important, though, is his philanthropic outlook and commitment to using sports as a way to elevate and connect people. I know he shares my unwavering support for women’s basketball and I look forward to watching him become a unifying force across the Valley of the Sun.”

Mat Ishbia can be expected to use his ownership of the teams to expand UWM’s visibility, as he’s done with ties he’s maintained to his alma mater, MSU.

UWM has pioneered a social media marketing campaign that pays MSU athletes up to $700 a month to plug the company on social media. UWM launched the campaign in 2021 after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced a new policy allowing athletes to profit from their own “name, image and likeness” (NIL).

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Email Matt Carter

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