Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is stepping down as Western Alliance chief executive amid the NBA investigation

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

The company’s latest announcement of Sarver’s imminent departure comes amid the NBA investigation into the Suns and Sarver that the league launched in early November 2021 after ESPN published a story alleging allegations of racism and misogyny in a sometimes hostile and toxic workplace during Sarver’s 17-year tenure as majority owner has been detailed. Sarver has denied allegations in ESPN’s story.

Sarver has been executive chairman of Western Alliance Bancorporation since 2018 and has held a seat on the company’s board of directors since 2002, which he will also vacate in June.

“I have been honored to serve as Executive Chairman of Western Alliance Bancorporation,” said Sarver, who also served as the company’s CEO from 2002 to 2018, in a statement. “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our employees whose hard work and dedication have enabled us to achieve so much in my 20 years with the company. With the company well positioned for continued success and growth, the time has come 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 the oversight of our highly experienced and capable board of directors.”

Kenneth Vecchione, CEO and President of Western Alliance Bancorporation, said in a statement, among other things, “Robert’s vision and leadership made Western Alliance’s remarkable success possible. Robert was honest, transparent and throughout his time leading the company with integrity as a colleague and as a friend to many of us.”

As American Banker magazine first reported in January, Vecchione told investors on a conference call that independent directors on the company’s board had hired an independent outside law firm, Munger, Toller & Olsen, to help conduct their own investigation, ” to assess Roberts’ continued leadership role at the company,” Vecchione said on the conference call.

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

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

“This is being handled by the independent directors and their counsel,” Vecchione replied. “And I’m not really in a position to comment on the scope or the length of the investigation. Excuse.”

Western Alliance Bancorporation did not address the NBA’s investigation in its announcement, nor did it provide a reason for Sarver’s resignation.

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

The Suns declined to comment.

In the announcement, Western Alliance Bancorporation added that Steve Hilton, most recently a director of the board of directors, will also step down from his position in June.

Hilton is a minority owner of 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 meetings of the NBA’s Board of Governors in New York City, which Sarver attended, according to league sources.

When asked about the status of the NBA’s investigation following the Board of Governors meetings, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters that they are still ongoing.

“I mean, these kinds of investigations take a lot of time,” Silver said. “You want to make sure you gather all the facts, and you also want to make sure you protect the rights of the accused. And that’s why we want to irritate on the side of completeness. So we’re certainly closer to the end than the beginning. But it’s hard to pinpoint a precise timetable for that at the moment.”

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

The top-seeded Suns, who ended the regular season with a franchise record and an NBA-best 64-18, are scheduled to start their postseason run this Sunday in Phoenix against either the New Orleans Pelicans or the LA Clippers.

Viardos Sports