Under $1500.....Yaesu FT-950. I have owned and operated one daily for 2 1/2 years. Problem free, with SSB & digital modes on a daily basis.
I've got a 950 and it seems like a GREAT buy at the price, especially now that prices have dropped a bit on it. I'm mostly CW these days but the 950 is a great performer all around, IMO, and a LOT of "bang for the buck." He would even have a nice bit of change coming back from the $1500. :-)
In the under-$1000 range, and for phone/digital only, he might consider a TS-480; I bought one as a "refurb" for well under $1000 and it's a nice performer for the price. Not great for CW, IMO, unless he throws another couple hundred into an optional filter. But if he's not interested in CW and could find a 480 at the price, it might be a decent choice.