As Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver prepares to step down as owner of the two teams, four people have emerged as potential buyers of the Suns franchise.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports that former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, former Disney CEO Bob Iger, former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, and Wizards minority owner Laurene Jobs are expected to widow of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs are in the running to become the next franchise owner.
Sarver announced Wednesday that he has begun the process of “selling” both Phoenix-based teams. More than a week ago, the NBA suspended Sarver for a year and a $10 million fine for a league investigation of workplace misconduct.
The 60-year-old, who owns about 30% of the Suns according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, will be in control of the sales process as he prepares to step down. Sarver’s group bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million. Almost two decades later, the price of the franchise will be well above what Sarver paid.
Last year, Forbes reported that the franchise was worth $1.8 billion. If the Suns go looking for the highest bidder, the franchise will likely look to Bezos, who currently has more than $146.9 billion in wealth to his name.
When examining how much the team could realistically sell for, many are referring to the Clippers’ sale in 2014. When former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was ousted for his racist behavior within the franchise, his wife, Shelly Sterling oversaw the $2 billion sale of the team.
However, while other teams — the Rockets and Nets — have been bought at higher prices in recent years, the Suns’ purchase price will likely top previous offers from other NBA teams.
According to the league’s investigation, Sarver used the n-word at least five times “when recounting the statements of others” during his time with both franchises. The 60-year-old also consistently acted unprofessionally with employees. There were “instances of unfair conduct toward female employees,” including “sex-related comments,” as well as Sarver allegedly engaging in “inappropriate physical conduct toward employees.”
Since the league announced Sarver’s punishment, several high-profile players including LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green have spoken out against it. Additionally, PayPal announced that it would not renew its sponsorship if Sarver remained the owner of the Suns, and minority owner Jahm Najafi called for Sarver’s resignation.