Bob Iger, the former chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, is considering a purchase of the Phoenix Suns, according to a new report. The executive has expressed an interest in owning an NBA team, and it seems like the variables might line up to make the Suns an ideal fit. Not only is the team expected to hit the market at some point in the next couple of months (with a reported $2 billion price tag), but that timeline roughly matches up with Iger's needs, since it would allow him to announce the move before he is officially out of Disney at the end of the year.
Iger stepped down from his duties in February 2020, handing the reins to Bob Chapek, former head of the Parks division at Disney, but stayed on as executive chairman and adviser to Chapek during the transition. His contract runs out at the end of 2021, though, and that gives Iger a somewhat limited window to have the seamless transition to his post-Disney role that he reportedly wants to have.
The Suns may go on the market after the current controlling owner, Robert Sarver, was the subject of an ESPN report that alleged a pattern of unprofessional and discriminatory behavior in the workplace. Of course, being forced out could make any potential sale date a moving target. There's some nuance here, as it seems possible Sarver has weathered the worst of the criticism, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver has launched a probe into Sarver's conduct at the Suns.
The law firm handling the investigation, Wachtell Lipton, is the same one that led an investigation into former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell after using racist language with members of his staff. In an interesting twist, that sale was to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who paid $2 billion for the team in what was essentially the same kind of post-retirement move Iger is considering.
The connection between the entertainment industry and professional sports goes way back, obviously. The NBA is a huge source of revenue for Disney-owned ESPN, and relationships between studio heads and professional sports teams are not uncommon. Blockbuster founder Wayne Huizenga famously followed up his retirement from the video rental industry by buying the MLB's Florida Marlins. He was also co-owner of the NFL's Miami Dolphins and the NHL's Florida Panthers.