After 25 years of preparation, new Utah Jazz president Jim Olson 'ready for the challenge'

by Aaron Falk

On his first day with the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, Jim Olson settled into his cubicle in a cinderblock office, picked up a phone, and started selling tickets. Twenty-five years later to the day, Olson is moving into one of the company’s biggest offices: president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment.

“I’m excited,” Olson told reporters after Friday’s announcement. “It’s a big challenge, but after all these years in my career, I’m ready for the challenge.”

Olson has held myriad positions within the company since 1994. Most recently, he served as executive vice president of LHM Sports & Entertainment and president of Vivint Smart Home Arena. Olson played a “major role” in the recent $125-million renovation of the arena and has overseen many upgrades to the fan experience.

Olson replaces Steve Starks, who was promoted to CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies earlier this year. Starks said the group had several qualified internal applicants. Olson, though, was the right man for the job.

“He’s done a lot of great things,” Starks said. “I’m really proud of him. And I’m really proud of the culture and the group we have. I’m proud to be able to promote from within and that we have people that understand the values, the things that make this organization successful. Jim embodies all of those values.”

Olson grew up in Salt Lake City and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in communications. He holds a master’s degree in sports and recreation management from Northeastern University in Boston.

“Jim has a comprehensive knowledge, understanding and application of our mission, vision, values, and culture,” Gail Miller, owner and chairman of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies said in a statement. “He has articulated a compelling long-term strategy to give back to the community, constantly innovate, improve the fan experience and win an NBA championship. He is an integral part of our team as we manage for the future.”

As president of LHM Sports & Entertainment, Olson will oversee the Utah Jazz’s day-to-day operations. He will also provide leadership for the LHM properties including the Salt Lake City Stars, the Salt Lake Bees, Jazz Gaming, Megaplex Theatres, The Zone Sports Network.

“The truth of the matter is the Jazz is the crown jewel of the organization,” he said. “But it’s important to remember the other business entities.”

In his new role, Olson said he remains committed to improving the experience for Jazz fans, whom he called “the lifeblood” of the organization. Olson also pointed to the negotiation of a new TV deal, one with “new elements”, as one of the critical initiatives of his presidency.

As he replaces Starks as president of the Jazz, Olson said he intends to continue many of the practices put in place by his predecessor.

“Steve and I are different in some ways, but I’ve learned a lot from his leadership,” Olson said. “I’ve been very fortunate within this organization to have great mentors and Steve is one of them. I will absolutely follow many of the great things that he’s established. At the same time, I have a little bit of a different personality. Hopefully, if it’s right, it might find its way into a few nooks and crannies of this place.”

Olson will oversee the business side of the organization but said he will still rely heavily on Starks when it comes to basketball operation matters.

“I participated in a fantasy baseball league years ago and I took last place. I learned quickly that my role is on the business side,” Olson said. “I’ll let Steve and [Jazz executives Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik] and coach Snyder operate things on the basketball side.

“… My job will be to support them. The better we do on the business side, the more opportunities we’re going to give the basketball operations to grow and accomplish their goals.”

And that goal remains unchanged: “Our ultimate goal is to win an NBA championship,” Olson said.

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