Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia forms Player 15 investment group

Mat Ishbia, majority owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, talks to the media during his introductory press conference at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, on Feb. 8, 2023.

Barry Gossage | Getty Images

Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia is forming a new sports, entertainment and real estate investment group as a single unifying place for his investments.

The new investment or holding company will be called the Player 15 Group, the company announced Wednesday. It will house the National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns, the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Mercury and the newly acquired G-League team for the Suns. Up until now, Phoenix was the only NBA franchise without a G-League affiliate.

“It’s about unifying all of these businesses under one brand,” Ishbia told CNBC.

“Whether you are a star player, whether you’re the janitor or security guy, everyone’s going to do their role,” he said. “Player 15 represents that mantra that we’re all about the team, all the time.”

The new investment company will also include operations of the downtown Phoenix Footprint Center arena, where the Phoenix pro teams play, and the $100 million development for a new Suns and Mercury team campus and dedicated Mercury practice facility, announced in October.

Any future investment opportunities for Ishbia will be done through Player 15, he said.

The group follows similar one-stop shop investment groups such as Fenway Sports Group, Harris Blitzer Group and The Kraft Group.

The notion of Player 15 is very personal to Ishbia. Today, at 44 years old, in addition to his role as owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury basketball teams, he’s the CEO of mortgage lender United Wholesale Mortgage and has a net worth of more than $8 billion, according to Forbes.

But before all of that, he wore a No. 15 jersey while playing basketball for Michigan State University, where he was the 15th player on the roster, referring to the last guy to make the team. He says he owes his success to grit and tenacity.

“I was the hardest working guy to be the worst on the team,” he said.

Mateen Cleaves, #12, center, of Michigan State, is mobbed by his teammates after defeating Florida 89-76 to win the final round of the NCAA Men’s Final Four at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Jed Jacobsohn | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Ishbia went on to win a national title with the Spartans championship team in 2000, averaging just a few minutes per game.

Ishbia says Player 15 is a tribute to the player who gets the last spot not because of their individual talent, but because of what they bring to the team.

“It has really defined everything I was about,” Ishbia said.

It has been just about a year since Ishbia agreed to buy the Suns and Mercury for a record $4 billion from embattled owner Robert Sarver.

In that time, he has made dramatic changes to everything from the front office to the team roster, and even the footprint in Phoenix. Those changes include the hiring of a new CEO, Josh Bartelstein; bringing NBA superstar Kevin Durant to the Suns; and making investments in state-of-the-art facilities.

“I couldn’t be happier and excited about what we’re doing this year both on and off the court,” Ishbia said, adding that the Phoenix teams have already proved to be a lucrative investment. “Over the next 10 to 15 years, do I think NBA valuations will double again? … The answer is absolutely.”

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