Sep 14, 2022 - Sports

Who is Robert Sarver, the suspended Phoenix Suns owner?

A group of people sit on a basketball court side line.
Robert Sarver, center, has not been well-liked in Phoenix. Photo: Ralph Freso/Associated Press

Robert Sarver, a banker and Arizona native, bought the Phoenix Suns in 2004 for $401 million — an NBA record at the time.

Early life: Sarver was raised in Tucson and started working for his father's company American Savings and Loans at 16.

  • In 1984, two years after graduating from U of A, he founded National Bank of Tucson, which later became National Bank of Arizona, which he sold in 1994.
  • He was then involved in multiple real estate and banking endeavors, most notably becoming chairman, president and CEO of Western Alliance Bancorporation.

Of note: Sarver retired from Western Alliance in June after the company cited him as a publicity risk because of the NBA investigation, The Arizona Republic reported.

Buying the Suns: Legendary UofA basketball coach Lute Olson, a longtime friend of Sarver's, helped facilitate his pursuit of the Suns by connecting him with former UofA basketball player Steve Kerr.

  • Sarver and Kerr, who became a minority owner in the team, flew to New York to meet with then-NBA commissioner David Stern. A few months later, the deal was done, The Tucson Citizen reported at the time.

State of play: Even before this investigation, Sarver was not well-liked in Phoenix.

  • With the exception of the past two seasons, the team has mostly struggled under his ownership, something many fans attribute to his failure to spend money to keep and recruit talent.
  • He's also been criticized for bad hiring decisions. The Suns have been through nine coaches and seven general managers during his tenure.

1 funny thing: Sarver's lack of public support came to a head in late 2018 when the team asked the city of Phoenix to spend $150 million of taxpayer money on arena renovations.

  • Phoenix resident Greta Rogers, who was 89, roasted Sarver for asking for a handout when he wouldn't even invest in his own team, telling the council, "He's so tight he squeaks when he walks."
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