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From banker to NBA franchise owner: Who is Robert Sarver and how he acquired the Phoenix Suns

Robert Sarver
Posted at 4:21 PM, Nov 05, 2021

PHOENIX — Questions remain after ESPN released a bombshell of a report, accusing Suns owner Robert Sarver of making racist comments and of misogyny.

Now, a former longtime Valley sports reporter is giving ABC15 a unique perspective from his interactions with Suns coaches, players, and even Sarver himself.

Scott Bordow is a former sports columnist for the East Valley Tribune and spent the 2017-2018 season covering the Suns for the Arizona Republic.

"Up until this past season, I mean, he was vilified in this community," he told ABC15 when talking about Sarver.

Given his involvement with covering the team, Bordow saw, firsthand, the transition between Jerry Colangelo and Robert Sarver.

It’s a transition he says was not a smooth one.

"He went through GMs and coaches far too quickly. He hired inexperienced coaches and paid them far too little," added Bordow.

To understand how Sarver became the owner of an NBA franchise, let's take a step back.

Sarver was born and raised in Tucson. Shortly after graduating from the University of Arizona, he founded the National Bank of Tucson, now known as the National Bank of Arizona.

"You don't get to buy an NBA franchise without doing pretty well for yourself in the business world, but that's different than owning a basketball team," said Bordow.

In 2004, Sarver became the majority owner of the Suns for a then-record $401 million.

The team is now valued at $1.8 billion.

"He was a banker running a successful NBA franchise and he ran them into the ground for a really long time," said Bordow.

Sarver also owns the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, and a controlling share of Spanish soccer team Real Club Deportivo Mallorca.

So fast forward to November 4, when ESPN released its report sending shockwaves through the sports world.

Bordow says Sarver was known for bursting into coaches' offices and ripping them after losses.

"When I covered the team we all heard countless stories of those things. He would go in, whether it was Earl Watson, Igor Kokoskov, Jay Triano," added Bordow.

Though, when asked about the allegations of misogyny and racism in the ESPN report, here’s what Bordow said:

"That surprised me. I had not heard that, but this is a very deeply researched story. I mean the reporter talked to more than 70 people," he said.

In an email interview with the Republic Sarver says:

"More than anything, I'm frustrated and sad. I've taken responsibility for mistakes I've made, but most of the claims from nameless 'sources' are false or too vague to even sensibly address."

Bordow says, while there doesn't appear to be any recordings of Sarver's behavior so far, the ESPN report seems to be backed up substantially.

"If this story is accurate, and again, it's hard for me to say it's not accurate, based on the depth of the reporting, I think Robert Saver at some point would be bought out by his co-owners or forced out by the NBA," Bordow told ABC15.

The NBA’s investigation into these allegations is expected to likely take months.