Suns president, CEO Rowley resigns, sources say
Phoenix Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley, whom some employees placed at the center of allegations of verbal abuse, retaliation and intimidation in the workplace, has resigned from the team, team sources told ESPN on Monday. Suns employees were notified in an internal email from Suns interim governor Sam Garvin.
“I wanted to let you know that Jason Rowley made the decision to leave the organization,” Garvin wrote. “After almost 15 years of hard work and dedicated service, Jason felt that the transition in ownership created ideal timing to close this chapter of his professional journey and pursue new opportunities.
“We wish Jason the best and are appreciative of his tireless work on behalf of our organization.”
Rowley joined the Suns in 2007 and has served in his current role since 2012. His resignation comes as Mat Ishbia, a billionaire mortgage lender, is set to be introduced as the Suns’ new majority owner as early as Wednesday morning in Phoenix, sources have told ESPN. Ishbia bought the Suns and Mercury from Robert Sarver at a $4 billion valuation.
When ESPN published a Dec. 19, 2022, story about allegations of Suns misconduct extending beyond Robert Sarver, Rowley told some team employees that he would not be resigning from his role, sources told ESPN.
During the meeting, Rowley added that although a new owner might ultimately oust him, he would not be stepping down, according to the sources. In a later statement to ESPN, Rowley effectively confirmed the employees’ account of the meeting, adding “I communicated that while I do not know my ultimate fate with new ownership, I will never quit on this team and the people who make up this great organization.”
ESPN’s Dec. 19 story, based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former Suns employees, outlined specific accounts of alleged misconduct by Rowley and other Suns executives mentioned in the September 2022 report released by New York-based law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The NBA hired the firm to conduct an investigation into the Suns’ workplace and Sarver’s conduct after a November 2021 ESPN investigation.
ESPN also confirmed additional allegations, including verbal abuse of employees, mistreatment of pregnant and postpartum employees, and other instances of retaliation and intimidation. Rowley’s conduct extended beyond misconduct toward women, according to the Wachtell Lipton findings and additional ESPN reporting.
The team declined to make Rowley or any of the executives available for comment but said several of ESPN’s questions contained “factual inaccuracies and/or are deprived of important context necessary to understand the totality of situations that are complicated and matters of some dispute.”
Previously, in a September 2022 all-employee Zoom call on the day Sarver announced he would be selling the team, Rowley addressed a question asking whether any executives would be held accountable for alleged misconduct. Rowley noted, in part, that there were items in the report that the organization would be looking into, with potential “corrective action” to follow.
“This is about holding people accountable, from top to bottom,” Rowley said on the Zoom call, “and making sure that we never find ourselves in a situation like this again.”
After the call, and in the days since, some current Suns employees told ESPN that they remained hopeful that new ownership would bring in its own leadership team and replace current executives the employees believed were complicit in workplace culture issues.