While the Jazz did not disclose the sale price, ESPN.com reported the deal for the Jazz and its home arena to be worth $1.66 billion. That number falls short of the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 and the $2.2 billion sale of the Houston Rockets in 2017, but both of those franchises operate in significantly bigger markets. The Jazz said the sale agreement should be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors by the end of the year.
Miller, 77, took over as controlling owner of the Jazz after her husband, Larry Miller, died in 2009, and she put the team in a legacy trust in 2017. Her goal, she said, was to ensure the Jazz would remain Utah.
The 40-year-old Smith is a lifelong Utah resident and a longtime Jazz fan. Qualtrics, a computer-software company specializing in research and statistical analysis, has been a key corporate sponsor of the Jazz for years, and it has hosted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at its annual conference. Founded by Smith and his partners in 2002, the company was sold for $8 billion in 2018.
“I have known Ryan for several years and admire the values by which he and his wife Ashley live their lives,” Miller said in a statement. “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.”
Larry Miller, the owner of a string of car dealerships, purchased a 50 percent stake in the Jazz for $8 million in 1985, according to the Deseret News, and presided over much of the franchise’s golden era. Utah made the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons from 1984 to 2003, thanks largely to legendary coach Jerry Sloan and the Hall of Fame tandem of John Stockton and Karl Malone.
Smith inherits an organization that has made the playoffs for four straight years, guided by well-regarded general manager Dennis Lindsey and a strong coach in Quin Snyder. The roster features a pair of all-stars in center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell, who led a veteran core to a 44-28 record last season before losing to the Denver Nuggets in seven games during a thrilling first-round playoff series.
“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,” Smith said in a statement. “My wife and I are absolutely humbled and excited about the opportunity to take the team forward far into the future.”
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