The Utah Jazz, along with other sports and entertainment properties, are being sold to Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies announced Wednesday.
Included in the pending transaction are the Utah Jazz, Vivint Arena, the National Basketball Association G League Salt Lake City Stars, and management of the Triple-A baseball affiliate Salt Lake Bees.
ESPN reports the agreement is for $1.6 billion.
Current owner Gail Miller told fans during a press conference on Wednesday she has been assured that the Jazz “will remain in Utah.” The Jazz have been owned by Larry H. Miller Companies for 35 years.
“I have known Ryan for several years and admire the values by which he and his wife Ashley live their lives,” Miller stated in a press release. “They have such love for and a connection to Utah and this team. Because of our friendship and several high-level conversations over the years, Ryan recently approached our organization to inquire about the possibility of purchasing the Utah Jazz and some of our other sports and entertainment properties. After much soul searching, lengthy discussions and extensive evaluations of our long-term goals, my family and I decided this was the right time to pass our responsibility and cherished stewardship of 35 years to Ryan and Ashley, who share our values and are committed to keeping the team in Utah.”
We have every confidence they will continue the work we have undertaken and move the team to the next level. Our family remains invested in the success of the Utah Jazz and these businesses, and we will retain a minority interest.
Smith has been a corporate partner of the Utah Jazz for many years and was co-creator of the “5 For The Fight” jersey patch, the first philanthropic jersey patch in the history of North American professional sports. 5 For The Fight has raised over $25 million since the patch partnership was announced just three years ago.
“The Miller family has had an unbelievable impact on countless people through the Utah Jazz and the other organizations they run,” Smith said. “We all owe a great debt to the Miller family for the amazing stewardship they have had over this asset for the past 35 years. My wife and I are absolutely humbled and excited about the opportunity to take the team forward far into the future – especially with the greatest fans in the NBA.”
The Utah Jazz, the state of Utah, and its capital city are the beneficiaries of the Millers’ tremendous love, generosity and investment. We look forward to building upon their lifelong work.
Upon closing of the transaction, Smith will become the NBA Governor of the Utah Jazz and its affiliates, and he will have final decision-making authority for all business and basketball operations related to the team and other assets included in this transaction. Steve Starks, in addition to his role as chief executive officer for the LHM Group, will be an advisor.
“Much attention has been given in recent years to my putting the team in a legacy trust,” Smith said. “This was done in connection with my estate plan and with the objective of assuring our loyal Jazz fans that the team would remain in Utah. I am fully persuaded that with this sale, the objectives of the trust will be honored, and the new owners have made the same commitment to keep the team in Utah. This transaction will unlock opportunities that will allow us to continue our stewardship in ways not possible until now. Our mission is and will continue to be to Enrich Lives.”
Larry H. Miller Dealerships, Larry H. Miller Real Estate, Prestige Financial Services, Salt Lake Bees, and Megaplex Theatres will remain part of the LHM Group.
The closing is subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors and is expected to take place by the end of the year. Smith plans to acquire The Zone Sports Network from the Miller family subject to the parties entering into a separate agreement and separate approvals.
Many local leaders have expressed their appreciation for the Miller family and excitement for the Smiths on social media.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert said:
“Excited to have @RyanQualtrics part of the family! I know that he is completely dedicated to make this organization the best it can be and to continue the great work he’s been doing for our communities. Also very grateful for the Miller family and the amazing organization that they have built over the years! It’s a new chapter for the Jazz but they will forever be a big part of this team and none of this would be possible without them.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted, “The Miller Family gave Utah a generation of camaraderie, fandom, and joy when they brought us the @UtahJazz. Thank you, Miller Family, for the many seasons of competition and excitement you gifted our city and state. Welcome @RyanQualtrics!”
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted, “Thank you to Gail and the Miller family for their incredible stewardship of this franchise always on behalf of Utah. And congratulations to @RyanQualtrics—a friend who will preserve and build on this enduring legacy! #takenote”
Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams issued the following statement regarding the agreement to sell the Utah Jazz to Smith:
“The Miller family has been and will continue to be a pillar in our community. They invested in Utah and built our state’s professional basketball team that Utahns are proud to cheer for. The legacy of Larry and Gail Miller built the last 35 years will continue to be carried out by Utah business owners Ryan and Ashley Smith. I’m delighted that the Smith family shares the commitment to keeping the Utah Jazz in the beehive state.”
Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted, “Congratulations to the Miller family. They have developed a terrific franchise in the @UtahJazz— and congratulations to @RyanQualtrics for investing in the Jazz and in Utah. I wish all involved great success, and thank them for all they’ve done to make Utah the state of sport.”
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson posted on Twitter: “A new era for the Utah Jazz! I appreciate the legacy provided by the Miller family and look forward to ongoing success of the team under the direction of the Smith family. Thrilled to see a commitment to keep the Jazz in Utah!”