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Mat and Justin Ishbia among bidders to buy Denver Broncos, sources say

Mat Ishbia is a former national champion basketball player at Michigan State. He and his brother recently visited with Broncos and team sale reps.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There are players who star in the arena but struggle to find their way once their playing days are finished.

And there are players who aren’t stars but thrive outside the arena to become financially successful.

Meet Mat Ishbia, a reserve on Tom Izzo’s 1999-2000 national championship team at Michigan State who is now so big in the mortgage business he is among the bidders to buy the Denver Broncos, sources tell 9NEWS.

Ishbia and his brother Justin are part of a group that have put together a strong enough financial proposal to catch the attention of those running the Broncos’ sale. The Ishbia brothers recently visited with Broncos executives and those involved with the team sale.

Sources tell 9NEWS that investment groups led by Rob Walton and Josh Harris have also toured the Broncos’ facilities and met with team executives in recent weeks. Another possible bidder, Todd Boehly, has been in London in recent weeks finalizing his $4.25 billion purchase of the Chelsea soccer team in the Premier League. It’s unclear whether Boehly is still a potential bidder for the Broncos. Media mogul Byron Allen is also in the mix to bid on the Broncos, a source tells 9NEWS, although he has yet to visit the team.

Credit: AP
Mat Ishbia

Walton and Harris have been considered the leaders to capture the winning bid on the Broncos, who are expected to sell for at least $4 billion and could approach $5 billion once the second-round of auction bids are made. Then again, with inflation hindering the overall economy, potential Broncos' investors may be taking a more conservative approach in the bidding process.

Besides the highest bid, the chosen owner candidate must also receive approval from the NFL’s finance committee and 75 percent of the league’s 32 owners.

A call for second-round bids could come within the next two weeks, according to a source. The Broncos and the three trustees of the Patrick D. Bowlen Trust – Joe Ellis, Rich Slivka and Mary Kelly -- announced Feb. 1 that the team was up for sale. Pat Bowlen bought the Broncos in 1984. He died in June 2019 from complications of Alzheimer's. 

RELATED: Source: Byron Allen still in mix to buy Broncos

RELATED: Potential owner Rob Walton visiting the Broncos

A source told 9NEWS three weeks ago the Broncos’ bidding process started with 10 investment groups that submitted first-round proposals, after which the field was narrowed to five groups.

Because the Broncos’ sale is through the Bowlen trust, it has fiduciary responsibilities to the trust’s beneficiaries -- his seven children -- to get the highest price. Thus, the auction-like sale process.

Don’t count out the Ishbia brothers. While 9NEWS has profiled the Walton and Harris groups, little has been mentioned about the Ishbias. (Contrary to previous reports, Los Angeles’ businessman Alec Gores and Florida investor Dean Metropoulos are not part of the Ishbia group bidding on the Broncos.) While there are other investors in the Ishbia group, a source says Mat would be the controlling owner who would put up the 30 percent minimum requirement of the purchase price if the Ishbias’ bid were to be successful.

A closer look at the Ishbia group that could rival Walton and Harris in the bid to buy the Broncos:  

Mat Ishbia

Although a seldom-used 5-foot-10, 175-pound reserve point guard on Michigan State’s 2000 national championship team that was led by Coach Izzo, Ishbia was considered an invaluable part of the team. Entering his senior year, the Spartans’ media guide said Ishbia “was one of MSU’s team leaders in the locker room. … Great work habits provide an example for a young Spartan squad. … MSU is 34-1 when he plays in a game.”

A walk-on, Ishbia averaged 2.4 minutes and 0.6 points per game in his three playing seasons with the Spartans. But like many reserves, Ishbia, now 42, was smart, aware and resourceful. As a senior at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Mich., Ishbia averaged 23 points and 7 assists per game. A member of the National Honor Society in high school, he graduated from Michigan State with a degree in general management.

Credit: AP
Former Michigan State players Mateen Cleaves, left, and Mat Ishbia on Dec. 12, 2015.

After his four years on the Spartans’ basketball team (he practiced with the team as redshirted freshman), Ishbia spent one year as a student assistant coach under Izzo in 2002-03, then joined his father's United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) company. Starting at the bottom, Mat worked his way up until he is now the president and CEO of the company that has been the country’s No. 1 wholesale mortgage lender since 2015.

According to Yahoo Finance, Mat Ishbia’s net worth is about $11 billion, although Bloomberg lists his value at about half that.

Mat Ishbia’s relative youth compared to Rob Walton, 77, and Harris, 57, and his experience with a national champion at a major college program could be tiebreakers if all bids are the same.

Mat Ishbia stated on his Linkedin page:

"Over seventeen years ago, I combined my passion for people and teamwork with my competitive drive to build the No. 1 wholesale lender and No. 2 overall mortgage lender in the nation, where team members are encouraged to be themselves and award-winning family culture is practiced. My father offered me the opportunity to work at UWM in 2003, where I started in entry-level roles and worked hard to learn and grow with the company. There were 12 people when I joined UWM, and since then, we have grown to an 8,000+ person team and became a public company on January 22, 2021, under the ticker UWMC.

"Before UWM, I played for Michigan State’s basketball team for four years – going to three Final Fours and winning the National Championship in 2000. I also spent a fifth year coaching alongside Tom Izzo. During that time, I learned so much about leadership and the importance of challenging the WHY, which inspired me to take a team-focused business approach and leadership style at UWM.

"At our company, we treat our team members and broker partners like family, and we believe that great things happen when you are willing to work hard and have a positive attitude. We are all in for growing the wholesale channel and are always looking for new ways to enhance our industry-leading service, products, and proprietary technology to further support independent mortgage brokers."

Justin Ishbia

Mat’s older brother, Justin, 44, lives in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka. He owns 22 percent of his UWM Holdings and is also the founder and managing partner of Shore Capital Partners, a private-equity firm in which Mat is also a partner. Justin graduated from Michigan State before getting his law degree from Vanderbilt. Forbes lists Justin Ishbia’s net value of $1.4 billion.

Written on Justin's Linkedin page:

"Justin is Managing Partner and a founding partner of Shore Capital, a private equity firm focused on partnering with companies that have between $1-10 million of EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization). ...

Prior to being a founding partner of Shore, Justin worked as an investment professional at Valor Equity Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. Prior to joining Valor, Justin was an attorney in the private equity group of Kirkland & Ellis.

Outside of the office, Justin is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and Vanderbilt University Law School Advisory Board, as well as a Trustee of Rush University Medical Center. Additionally, Justin has been a guest lecturer at Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Business, Loyola University of Chicago Law School and the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Justin received his Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University Law School. Justin earned a Certificate of Law and Business from the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management and a B.A. in Accounting from Michigan State University. Justin is a member of the State Bar of Illinois and a Certified Public Accountant."

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