Robert Sarver (born 1961 in Tucson, Arizona) is the current majority owner of the National Basketball Association franchise Phoenix Suns. He bought the NBA franchise from Jerry Colangelo in the spring of 2004. He is also the owner of the Women's National Basketball Association franchise Phoenix Mercury.
Sarver was born to a Jewish family in Tucson, the son of Irene and Jack Sarver.1 His father was a prominent Tucson businessman, banker and hotel developer (the elder Sarver built the Aztec Inn, the Plaza International Hotel (now a Four Points by Sheraton) at Speedway and Campbell in Tucson in the early 1970s,2 built and operated the Tucson area Howard Johnson's locations, and headed a local savings and loan). Jack Sarver died of a heart attack in 1979; Robert Sarver would eventually donate to his alma mater, the University of Arizona, funds to its heart research center, which in 1998 was renamed the Sarver Heart Center in honor of his father.3 Sarver is a 1979 graduate of Sabino High School in Tucson and a 1982 graduate of the University of Arizona with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
In 1982, Robert Sarver founded the National Bank of Arizona (then the National Bank of Tucson) at age 23 in 1984. He sold it to Zions Bancorporation in 1994. Prior to the sale, National Bank of Arizona had become the largest independent bank in the state. In 1995 he acquired Grossmont Bank, one of San Diego's largest community banks.
A lifelong sports fan, Sarver's quest to purchase an NBA team began with a conversation with University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson. Olson referred Sarver to Steve Kerr, a former player at Arizona and a 15-year NBA veteran, to assist him in buying an NBA franchise.
After buying the Phoenix Suns, Sarver has received criticism from the media and fans4 for his frugal approach to running the franchise. Particularly under scrutiny is his selling of numerous draft picks for cash, and his general aversion to going over the NBA's luxury tax, despite being in a position to strengthen his squad and do everything possible to go for an NBA championship during Steve Nash's (the Suns' 2 time NBA MVP point guard) prime years. In 2008, ESPN Sportswriter Bill Simmons wrote an article about the Suns franchise in which he criticized moves made by Sarver and his team.5 In a June 25, 2011 article, Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley wrote that Sarver was "widely considered among the worst owners in sports." 6
Sarver sits on the Board of Trustees of the Sarver Heart Center (Tucson, AZ), which he helped build in memory of his late father, who was among the first in an experimental group to undergo bypass surgery. The Sarver Center is affiliated with the University of Arizona and now houses over 40 physicians and researchers dedicated to fighting heart disease.
He and his wife, Penny (a Kansas City, Missouri native), have three sons: Max, Jake and Zach. They currently live in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Sarver plays golf, tennis, volleyball and enjoys going to California in his spare time.
- Arizona Jewish Post: "Wandering Jews: Former Tucsonans thrive in new locales – Robert Sarver" September 15, 2011
- Arizona Daily Star article on the former Plaza International Hotel, built by Robert Sarver's father
- Sarver Heart Center bio on Robert Sarver
- Suns Fans Unite to Buy Out Robert Sarver
- A requiem for the S.S.O.L. Era in Phoenix