Jazz Franchise Remains in Good Hands Despite Ownership Change


Last Wednesday, the Miller Family agreed in principle to sell the Utah Jazz to local tech entrepreneur, Ryan Smith. Reportedly worth $1.66 billion, the deal includes Vivint Smart Home Arena, G League affiliate Salt Lake Stars, and management of the Triple-A baseball club Salt Lake Bees.

The Seller

The Larry H. Miller Group, led by Gail Miller and late husband Larry H. Miller, purchased the franchise in 1985. At the time, the team was struggling financially, and was on the brink of leaving Salt Lake City for good. During the Miller stewardship, the Jazz have only missed the playoffs eight times, becoming a model of success for small-market franchises. In 2017, The Miller Group transferred ownership of the team into a Legacy Trust, designed to keep the team in Utah for generations to come. The Legacy Trust is believed to be the first of its kind in North American professional sports.

The Buyer

Ryan Smith, 42, is the founder of Qualtrics, a Provo-based software company. After selling his company for $8 billion, Smith remains a key player in the Utah tech landscape. Jazz fans should be unfamiliar with Smith, given his status in the state and his recent involvement with the team. Jazz uniforms don the 5 For the Fight patch, an organization founded by Qualtrics to raise money for cancer research.

Smith’s First Move

Ownership changes hands in the midst of one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. With superstar guard Donovan Mitchell on the brink of signing a max extension, Smith has to establish the direction of the team going forward. With the league salary cap projected to take a sizable hit, new ownership has to make key decisions on 2020 and 2021 free agents Rudy Gobert, Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley.

That being said, the most critical decision to be made is that of Gobert, who is slated for a supermax extension this offseason. Smith has to direct management to either extend Gobert or look for a potential trade suitor such as the Nets, Celtics or Warriors.

How Fans Should Feel

Jazz fans should feel grateful and excited. Grateful to the Miller Family for 35 years of fantastic stewardship, and excited for the Ryan Smith Era to begin. Smith brings a fresh perspective and innovative mindset to the franchise. While the fate of the previously mentioned Legacy Trust is unclear, Jazz fans can rest assured that the new ownership will keep the team in Utah, where it belongs. Smith is a longtime Utah resident with deep ties to the state. With connections in the budding Utah tech scene, forward-thinking will become a vital part of the franchise’s identity under Smith. Although ownership is changing, the Jazz will still be the competitive franchise that it always has been.

Follow us on Twitter @JazzLead for the latest Jazz news and insight.

About Matt Peay

    Recommended for you

    Powered by themekiller.com