PHOENIX -- Real estate and banking executive Robert Sarver is heading an ownership group that plans to buy the Phoenix Suns for $401 million.
The amount is a record for an NBA franchise, the Suns said, and could rise to $415 million if incentives -- mostly based on the team's performance -- are met over the next three years.
Former NBA stars Charles Barkley and Sean Elliott will be among about a dozen others who will own a share of the team, Sarver said at a news conference at America West Arena on Friday.
The transaction includes covering about $200 million in debt, with the remainder in cash. The WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League are part of the deal.
Sarver, who lives in San Diego but is a Tucson native and lived in Phoenix, is chairman and chief executive of Western Alliance Bancorporation. He is also the founder of Southwest Value Partners, a major San Diego real estate investment company.
Sarver sits on the board of trustees of the Sarver Heart Center at the University of Arizona. He helped pay for the center in memory of his father, who died when Sarver was 18.
Jerry Colangelo, who owned 20 percent of the team, will sell his share but remain as the Suns' chairman and chief executive.
Two other members of the new ownership group are former University of Arizona star and 15-year NBA veteran Steve Kerr and Bryan Colangelo, Jerry Colangelo's son and the team's president and general manager.
"I still consider myself an Arizonan," Sarver said. "I have significant business interests here and in Tucson. I have significant charitable interests in both cities, and my heart is in Arizona."
Sarver, 42, will be the major investor, owning one-third of the team, and serve as managing partner of the new group that will purchase the Suns over the next three years.
A management corporation will oversee operations, with Sarver, Kerr and Bryan Colangelo its owners.
"I'm learning quickly and I'm going to learn more," Sarver said. "I'm very competitive. I try to win at everything I do. One thing I can commit to everybody here is that I will put everything I've got to try to make this team something that the city of Phoenix can be proud of and to build on the legacy that Jerry created."
He plans to leave the basketball decisions to Bryan Colangelo and Kerr, with Jerry Colangelo overseeing things.
University of Arizona coach Lute Olson is a longtime friend of Sarver. Olson called Kerr and asked if he could help Sarver purchase an NBA team.
"I set up a few meetings and opened a few doors and somehow this evolved at a shockingly fast rate," Kerr said. "I think it speaks volumes about Robert's intelligence, his drive, his business sense, his determination and just his personality that we're sitting here today."
Kerr said he will continue as a Turner Sports NBA analyst while having a voice in the basketball decisions of the Suns.
Current investors will vote on the proposed purchase next Friday. NBA owners also must approve the transaction.
Closing is set for June 30, with 65 percent of the purchase price paid then. The remainder will be due in three years, when Colangelo plans to step down as chairman but remain CEO.
A 1982 graduate of the University of Arizona, Sarver founded National Bank of Arizona at age 23 in 1984 and served as its president until its sale to Zions Bancorporation
Jerry Colangelo said there were several inquiries and two serious offers to buy the team, but he quickly was impressed by Sarver.
"I was impressed with his enthusiasm, his intelligence, his track record, the fact that he's an Arizonan, and he bought into my philosophy about community and charitable giving," Colangelo said. "He recognized what the Suns franchise has meant to this community for three and a half decades."
Colangelo, who did not identify the other potential buyer, has talked for some time about easing out of the sports empire he built in the desert.
He hired Lehman Brothers in January to put together a plan to sell the team. He hoped to find a minority owner that would have the right to buy full ownership in several years
Colangelo came to Phoenix 36 years ago as the 28-year-old general manager of the expansion Suns.
In 1987, he put together an investment group that bought the franchise for $44.5 million.
Colangelo also headed the move to bring major league baseball to Phoenix and until recently was managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He remains the baseball team's chairman and CEO after a restructuring of the franchise's ownership this year.
Colangelo also spearheaded the move to build America West Arena and Bank One Ballpark, revitalizing long-neglected downtown Phoenix.
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