Former Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is giving a $20,000 individual bonus to many team employees and is also donating $5 million to the team’s charity, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Sarver sold the Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury to billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia in the wake of a 10-month NBA investigation into Sarver’s conduct over nearly two decades as the Suns’ majority owner. The NBA’s investigation, conducted by the New York-based law firm Wachtell Lipton, came after an ESPN investigation published in November 2021.
In total, Ishbia bought a 57% controlling stake of the Suns for $2.28 billion, sources said, with Sarver personally selling his 37% stake to Ishbia for $1.48 billion. After taxes, Sarver is expected to clear nearly double the amount that he and a group paid for the team in 2004 — then a record $401 million from former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo.
Suns employees were notified about the bonuses and Sarver’s donation to charity in an email from Ishbia on Thursday morning. Those who qualified for the $20,000 bonus, which they’d receive in their next paycheck, were full-time employees who started on or before Feb. 15, 2022. Between 250 and 300 employees will be affected by the bonus, sources said.
“I will say, what a classy way to move on,” one current Suns employee told ESPN.
Ishbia was introduced as the team’s new owner on Feb. 8 in Phoenix and, during his introductory news conference, thanked Sarver for choosing him as the team’s new owner.
Ishbia also emphasized then that he wanted to focus on the team’s workplace culture, a point that he reiterated in private comments to employees before his news conference and the following morning during an all-staff meeting in the team’s arena.
“Family. You’re going to hear the word family from us a lot,” Ishbia told employees the morning after he was introduced, according to team sources. “And I don’t know all the details of what’s happened before, but I know what we’re going to talk about moving forward. That’s what matters now. The present and the future are what we’re going to focus on. Family , team, togetherness, working together, caring about one another.”