Gail Miller and Family Announce Agreement to Sell a Majority Interest in the Utah Jazz to Qualtrics Founder Ryan Smith
Sale to Include Utah Jazz, Vivint Arena and Salt Lake City Stars, Smith Commits to Keeping NBA Team in Utah
Gail Miller, owner and chair of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies (LHM Group), and the Miller family today announced they have entered into definitive agreements to sell a majority interest in the Utah Jazz and other sports and entertainment properties to technology entrepreneur Ryan Smith, co-founder of Utah-based Qualtrics.
Included in the pending transaction are the Utah Jazz, Vivint Arena, the National Basketball Association (NBA) G League Salt Lake City Stars, and management of the Triple-A baseball affiliate Salt Lake Bees.
Smith has been a strong 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.
"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.
"The Miller family has had an unbelievable impact on countless people through the Utah Jazz and the other organizations they run," said Smith. "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."
"When Larry and I purchased the first half of the Utah Jazz in 1985, we could not comprehend the experiences we would have or the journey we would share with the Utah Jazz family, especially the players and coaches," said Miller. "We have also appreciated our relationships within the NBA and especially our friendships with both Commissioner Stern and Commissioner Silver. Our passionate fans and their unrelenting commitment to the Jazz have been the energy that has propelled us forward, and I sincerely thank them. I also want to acknowledge and thank our dedicated employees who are the backbone of our operations and who show up day after day to create the ultimate guest experience. They are the best! We have cherished our stewardship of the Utah Jazz and the unifying influence it has been to the citizens of our state. We are also grateful for the broadcast properties, the newly renovated arena and the practice facility as supporting venues.
"Much attention has been given in recent years to my putting the team in a legacy trust. 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."
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.
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.
Terms of the transaction are not disclosed.