As an 8-year-old boy, Robert Sarver attended his first Phoenix Suns basketball game after receiving tickets as a birthday gift from Donald Diamond, one of the franchise’s original owners. Thirty-five years later in 2004, Sarver became the majority owner of one of the NBA’s model franchises, assembling a group of investors that purchased the Suns, the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, and the operating rights to US Airways Center.
In seven years under Sarver’s leadership, the Suns have enjoyed virtually unparalleled success on the court. Phoenix owns the third-best record in the NBA since the start of the 2004-05 season (372-202, .648). His tenure includes three appearances in the Western Conference Finals and two of the three 60-win seasons in the franchise’s 43-year history. With his goal to create sustained success, the Suns’ payroll increased in each of Sarver’s first five seasons as owner, and ranked in the top 10 in the league in three of those campaigns and three of the last four seasons.
Sarver’s passion for winning extends beyond the men’s game. His continued commitment to the WNBA in Phoenix has resulted in the Mercury winning two league championships in 2007 and 2009. The Mercury have made have four Western Conference Finals appearances in the last five seasons. In 2009, the Mercury partnered with Tempe-based LifeLock and became the first team in NBA or WNBA history to secure a corporate-branded jersey.
Guided by his stated mission, the Suns and Mercury organizations are industry leaders in business innovation and community outreach and involvement.
Sarver is a member of the NBA’s Board of Governors, Labor Relations Committee, Advisory Finance Committee, and Audit and Compensation Committee.
Sarver is the Chairman and CEO of Western Alliance Bancorporation, which has $6.5 billion in assets and does business in Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado. Western Alliance is the largest financial institution headquartered in Arizona. The company recently moved to the CityScape tower across the street from US Airways Center. More than 200 of the company’s 1,000 employees are in Phoenix. Despite tough economic times, the bank has written more than $1 billion in local business and real estate loans in Arizona over the last three years, and has continued to be one of the most active small business lenders in Arizona. The bank also financed the retail component of CityScape, demonstrating his commitment to the continued renaissance of downtown Phoenix.
Sarver is the co-founder of Southwest Value Partners, a 25-year-old contrarian real estate fund. He has served as a director of SkyWest Airlines since 2000 and Phoenix-based Meritage Corporation since 1996.
After the passing of his father, Jack, and with very little start-up capital, Sarver founded National Bank of Tucson in 1984, becoming the youngest person ever to found a national bank. Robert served as the company’s president until its sale in 1994.
Sarver’s ever-growing philanthropic efforts focus not simply on worthy causes but also giving back to Arizona and its local communities, both through Phoenix Suns Charities and his own personal contributions.
Under Sarver’s leadership, Phoenix Suns Charities has made nearly $6 million in donations to local non-profits. Most recently, PSC handed out a record $1.36 million in grants and scholarships to a record 178 non-profit organizations in 2011.
Among his proudest accomplishments, Sarver helped to build the Sarver Heart Center at the University of Arizona in memory of his late father, who was among the first to undergo heart bypass surgery. The center is composed of more than 150 physicians and scientists and aims to prevent and cure cardiovascular diseases through the three pillars of research, education and patient care. Pioneering doctors at the center have spearheaded the development of the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart, an award-winning project that became the world’s first and only total artificial heart to win FDA approval as a bridge to human heart transplant in patients near death from heart failure. The innovation earned SynCardia recognition from the Arizona BioIndustry Association as “Arizona Bioscience Company of the Year” in 2011 for “doing to the most to transform the world during the last 12 months.” Sarver personally funded the initial stages of the project and currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the center.
Doctors and researchers at the center developed a hands-only CPR method called Continuous Chest Compression CPR that doubles a person’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest, and are continuing a program of outreach and education to make use of the method more widespread.
The center recently started a women’s heart health program focused on expanding research and providing statewide awareness programs about women’s heart issues.
The Sarvers were also instrumental in helping to build the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, located in downtown Phoenix. A $1 million donation from the Penny and Robert Sarver Charitable Foundation aided in the completion of the 70,000-square-foot facility.
Sarver is on the board of directors for the Weil Foundation, established by Dr. Andrew Weil, an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine.
The 50-year-old Sarver is a 1979 graduate of Sabino High School in Tucson and a 1982 graduate of the University of Arizona. Sarver earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration, and became a certified public accountant in 1983.
Sarver and wife Penny have three sons, Max, Jake and Zach. On their first date, Robert invited Penny to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at his house. Sarver is a “soccer dad,” who can regularly be found at one of his three boys’ soccer games or coaching his sons in the Jr. Suns league at the YMCA.