Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver to retire as executive chairman of Western Alliance amid NBA investigation

Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver will retire as executive chairman of Western Alliance Bancorporation in June, ending a two-decade tenure with the company of nearly $56 billion in assets.

The company’s recent announcement of Sarver’s impending departure comes amid the NBA’s investigation into the Suns and Sarver, which the league launched in early November 2021 after ESPN published an article detailing the allegations of racism and of misogyny in a sometimes hostile and toxic workplace during Sarver’s 17 years. tenure as majority owner. Sarver denied the allegations in ESPN’s story.

Sarver has held the title of executive chairman of Western Alliance Bancorporation since 2018 and has served on the company’s board of directors, which he will also step down in June, since 2002.

“It was an honor to serve as executive chairman of Western Alliance Bancorporation,” Sarver, who also served as the company’s CEO from 2002 to 2018, said in a statement. “I would like to sincerely thank our employees, whose hard work and dedication have allowed us to accomplish so much during my 20 years with the company. With the company well positioned to continue its success and growth, now is the time for me to start a new chapter. I will always cherish and be grateful for the experiences I have had and the relationships I have formed during my time at Western Alliance. I have the utmost confidence in the leadership team and oversight of our highly experienced and knowledgeable Board of Directors moving forward.”

CEO and President of Western Alliance Bancorporation, Kenneth Vecchione, said in a statement, “Robert’s vision and leadership have made Western Alliance’s remarkable success possible. Robert has been honest, transparent and has led the business with integrity throughout his tenure as a colleague and as a friend to many of us.”

In January, as trade publication American Banker first reported, Vecchione told investors on an earnings call that independent directors on the company’s board had hired an outside law firm. independent, Munger, Toller & Olsen, to help them conduct their own investigation “to assess whether they continue to play a leadership role in the business,” Vecchione said on the call.

“The investigation is directed and overseen by the independent directors and, to be clear, is not the result of any company-related allegations uncovered by the board of directors or the NBA,” Vecchione continued during the interview. call. “In addition, Western Alliance has and will continue to assist the NBA with an ongoing investigation, as requested.”

During the January call, Ebrahim Poonawala, an analyst with Bank of America Securities, asked Vecchione about the timeline for concluding the investigation.

“That is handled by the independent directors and their boards,” Vecchione replied. “And I’m not really in a position to comment on the scope or duration of the investigation. Sorry.”

Western Alliance Bancorporation did not address the NBA investigation in its announcement, or give a reason for Sarver’s retirement.

A spokesperson for Western Alliance Bancorporation declined to comment beyond the statement on the reasons or the timing of the announcement.

The Suns declined to comment.

In the announcement, Western Alliance Bancorporation added that Steve Hilton, most recently a director of its board, would also step down in June.

Hilton is a minority owner of the Suns and, like Sarver, has been part of Western Alliance Bancorporation since 2002.

The company’s announcement regarding Sarver came last week, a day after the conclusion of NBA board of governors meetings in New York, which league sources say Sarver attended.

Asked about the status of the NBA’s investigation following the Board of Governors meetings, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters it was continuing.

“I mean, these types of surveys take a long time,” Silver said. “You want to make sure you’re getting all the facts, and you also want to make sure you’re protecting the rights of the accused. And so we want to err on the side of being very thorough. So we’re certainly closer to the end than the beginning, but it is difficult to set a precise timetable for the moment.

The NBA investigation was conducted by New York law firm Wachtell Lipton.

The top-seeded Suns, who finished the regular season with a franchise record and NBA-leading 64-18 mark, are set to start their playoff series this Sunday in Phoenix against either the New Orleans Pelicans or the LA Clippers.

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