SALT LAKE CITY – The majority interest of the Utah Jazz is being sold to technology entrepreneur Ryan Smith, a move that when formally approved by the NBA will end the Miller family’s 35-year run as owners of the franchise.
The Jazz said Wednesday that “definitive agreements” have been struck with Smith on the sale of the team, Vivint Arena, the team’s G League affiliate and management of a Triple-A baseball club. Part of those agreements call for the team to remain in Utah.
Smith is a co-founder of the Utah-based firm Qualtrics, which was sold to SAP for $8 billion in an all-cash deal finalized last year.
Gail Miller, the owner and chair of the Larry H. Miller Group, said she has known Smith and his wife Ashley for some time. Smith, she said, approached the Millers to gauge their interest in a sale. The terms were not immediately disclosed, though ESPN reported the purchase price to exceed $1.6 billion.
“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,” Miller said. “We have every confidence they will continue the work we have undertaken and move the team to the next level.”
The sale will have to be approved by the NBA’s board of governors. When that happens, Smith will be installed as the team’s governor. The Miller family will retain a stake in the franchise.
“The Miller family has had an unbelievable impact on countless people through the Utah Jazz and the other organizations they run,” Smith said. “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.”
Larry and Gail Miller bought 50% of the Jazz in May 1985 for $8 million, then bought the remaining 50% the following year for $14 million. Forbes, in its annual valuation of franchises, said the Jazz were worth $1.55 billion earlier this year.
The Jazz have the NBA’s third-best record since the 1985-86 season, their .588 winning percentage in that span trailing only San Antonio (.633) and the Los Angeles Lakers (.596).
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