After ending an 11-year playoff drought and advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993, the Phoenix Suns entered the 2021-22 NBA season with a goal of legitimizing their ascent to the top of the Western Conference.
A key figure behind the scenes, especially given the contract statuses of Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton, is longtime Suns majority owner Robert Sarver.
Phoenix’s ability to continue to build towards a championship largely hinges on Sarver’s ability — and willingness — to keep the roster intact. While Paul and Bridges both inked lucrative deals — as did Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet — all eyes are on the dynamic between Sarver and Ayton, as contract extension talks between the franchise and its star center stalled at the deadline, a bad sign considering Ayton is in line to sign a five-year extension similar to that of his draft classmates Luka Doncic and Trae Young.
With Ayton’s situation in Phoenix reaching an interesting crossroads, Sarver’s role is more important than ever.
Who is Robert Sarver? Here is everything to know about the Suns’ longtime owner.
Who is Robert Sarver? Background, history of Suns owner
Sarver, who was born in Tuscon, Ariz., is the son of Jack Sarver, who was a prominent businessman in the area.
At 21, Robert Sarver graduated from the University of Arizona in 1982 and became a certified public accountant in 1983.
According to a 2005 profile on Sarver in the Tuscon Citizen, he founded the National Bank of Tuscon in 1984 at the age of 23, selling the bank to Zions Bancorporation in 1994. He would later become chairman, president and CEO of Western Alliance Bancorporation in 2003.
Sarver’s interest in owning the Suns stems from a lifelong interest in sports and his connections with the University of Arizona. The late Lute Olson, who coached at Arizona for 25 seasons, was a good friend of Sarver’s and, upon discovering Sarver’s interest in ownership, connected the businessman with Steve Kerr.
In April of 2004, Sarver purchased the Suns from Jerry Colangelo for $401 million, which, at the time was an NBA record.
Just months into Sarver’s tenure as the franchise’s owner, the Suns signed free agent Steve Nash, marking the beginning of a successful string of years. Sarver also promoted Kerr to the team’s general manager position in 2007.
Despite successful seasons, Phoenix has been unable to get over the championship hump under Sarver’s ownership, as young talent has gone elsewhere due to stalls in contract negotiations, circumstances similar to the current situation of Ayton.
In addition to the Suns, Sarver is the owner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, who have won titles in 2007, 2009 and 2014.
Outside of basketball, Sarver owns soccer club Real Club Deportivo Mallorca, S.A.D. of Spain’s La Liga.
Sarver remains a principal owner of San Diego-based real estate investment firm Southwest Value Partners, which he co-founded in 1990, according to Forbes.
According to Yahoo Finance, Sarver’s net worth as of October 2020 is $400 million.
The Suns were valued at $1.8 billion in Forbes’ most recent valuation of NBA franchises, published in October 2021.