Tech entrepreneur Ryan Smith has agreed to buy the Utah Jazz (NBA), Vivint Arena, the G League’s Salt Lake City Stars and management of the MiLB Salt Lake Bees from the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.
Smith, a founder of data-analytics firm Qualtics, is purchasing majority control of the family of companies; various Miller families entities will retain minority shares in the firm.
“I have known Ryan for several years and admire the values by which he and his wife Ashley live their lives,” said Gail Miller. “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.”
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.
Larry and Gail Miller purchased the Jazz 35 years ago. The Jazz moved from New Orleans in 1979, but the team was on unstable footing, so the Millers purchased half the team in 1985 for $8 million and purchased the remaining half in 1986 for $14 million. The sale of the Jazz and associated assets has been reported as going for $1.66 billion.
In a separate transaction, Smith is buying The Zone Sports Network. He has also been rumored as a buyer for MLS’s Real Salt Lake, Rio Tinto Stadium, a team training facility and NWSL’s Utah Royals FC.