Sarver Takes Over Suns, Is Ready For the ’Fun Stuff’

Craig Harris
The Arizona Republic
July 1, 2004

So, how does a millionaire real-estate and banking executive celebrate the purchase of the Phoenix Suns?

With a milkshake, of course.

Tucson native Robert Sarver officially became the NBA team's managing owner Wednesday when the league's board of governors finalized and approved a $401 million sale.

Sarver and a dozen investors known as the Suns Legacy Partners put down 65 percent and will pay the balance over three years.

The deal calls for $200 million in cash and the assumption of $201 million in team debt.

Sarver will own about 30 percent of the franchise. His partners include investors from around the Valley and state, but former Suns star Charles Barkley, who initially said he would invest in the team, decided not to join the group.

"I feel good, and I'm excited," Sarver said in a phone interview. "I'm glad to get the paperwork and money stuff out of the way and get on to the fun stuff - basketball."

Sarver declined to disclose players the Suns will pursue in free agency, but he now intends to focus on acquisitions.

Sarver, who lives near San Diego, said he would take his wife and three young boys to a Red Robin restaurant to celebrate completion of the sale.

"I may even splurge and get a chocolate milkshake," he said.

Sarver said he also intends to improve the atmosphere inside America West Arena, which will feature a new scoreboard and an under-40 club this fall.

"The selection of Robert Sarver to pass on the torch is one that I felt strongly about," said Jerry Colangelo, the team's former managing general partner who will stay on as team chairman.

"He was the right guy. He said he would take it to the finish line, and he did."

Sarver joked that he and Colangelo, the team's first general manager in 1968, signed so many papers over the past two days that 100 trees were chopped down.

Colangelo joked it was about 10 times more paperwork than in 1987, when he formed an investment group to buy the team for $44.5 million.

"Back then, it was a mom-and-pop operation, but the company has grown in size in terms of an arena and other teams," Colangelo said. "It's a big deal now."

Sarver's purchase also included the Arizona Rattlers. Kim Coben, an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania, was unable to close the deal to partner with Sarver and control the Arena Football League team.

Rattlers President Jim Pitman, who worked closely on the Suns and Rattlers transaction, said that Sarver will continue to look for other partners with the Rattlers, who are committed to playing the 2005 season.

The Arena League franchise is now worth about $17 million.

Reporter Richard Obert contributed to this article.

COPYRIGHT 2004, AZCENTRAL.COM. Used with permission.