Miller family to sell majority interest in Utah Jazz to Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith

SALT LAKE CITY (KSL.com) — The Utah Jazz will soon have a new owner.

In a stunning move, the Miller family is selling a majority interest in the Jazz to Qualtrics founder and CEO Ryan Smith, a news release by the Larry H. Miller Group said on Wednesday.

The Millers agree to sell the Jazz to Smith for $1.6 billion-plus, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.

The deal, according to the news release, also includes Vivint Arena, the Salt Lake CIty Stars and the Salt Lake Bees.

The Millers have owned the team since Larry H. Miller bought 50% of the club in 1985.

Smith, a Utah native, has been connected with the Jazz for a number of years and was the co-creator of the “5 for the Fight” jersey patch worn on the Utah Jazz jerseys. That partnership led to Wednesday’s news.

“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.”

Once the deal is finalized, Smith will become the NBA Governor of the Utah Jazz and its affiliates, giving him final decision-making authority for all business and basketball operations related to the team and other assets included in this transaction.

The team had been put into a legacy trust by Gail Miller to ensure that the team remains in Utah. She said that this deal honors that trust.

“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,” she said.

Smith, who is 40, built Qualtrics into a tech giant — selling the company for $8 billion in 2018.

“The Miller family has had an unbelievable impact on countless people through the Utah Jazz and the other organizations they run,” said Smith in a statement. “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.”

Steve Starks, the chief executive officer for the LHM Group and former president of the Jazz, will be an advisor.

This story will be updated.