The Utah Jazz are in the process of being sold in a deal worth $1.66 billion, sources close to the proceedings told ESPN. The Miller family, who have been the majority owners of the NBA franchise for some time, decided to move on from the team, selling the Jazz to Utah-based tech mogul Ryan Smith.
Smith, who is only 42, will now be tied with Memphis Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera for youngest owner in the association, though Pera has owned the Grizz since he was in his mid-30s. Utah’s new owner made his money through a startup company called Qualtrics which makes customer-survey software for the likes of General Electric and Microsoft. He and his brother Jared sold the company for $8 billion in 2018 while maintaining control of Qualtrics operations
Valued by Forbes at $1.3B, it seems Ryan is wasting no time flipping his company’s sale into more opportunities for himself. The sale makes sense for Smith: he’s a lifelong Utah resident, a fixture in the state’s startup scene (which includes companies such as Ancestry.com), and a huge Jazz fan. He’s actually had a strong corporate relationship with the team in recent years, partnering on a jersey patch that has raised $25-million over the past few years for 5 For The Fight, a charity dedicated to cancer research.
The sale marks the end of an era for the Utah Jazz, as their saviors, Gail Miller, 77, and her late husband Larry, will be moving on after 35 wonderful years at the head of the team. The NBA board of governors still needs to formally approve the sale, but that’s just a formality.
The Millers are generally regarded as the ones who saved the Utah Jazz from becoming the Kansas City Jazz or the Pittsburgh Jazz or some other such city. They stepped in and bought 100 percent of the team over the course of 1985-1986, ensuring that the franchise’s financial issues would not lead to a sale that would remove the team from the Beehive State.
Utah saw sustained success for much of the Millers’ 35-year ownership tenure, putting up 16 50-win campaigns and reaching the NBA Finals twice, losing to Michael Jordan’s Bulls both times. They didn’t post a losing record in the first 19 seasons after Gail and Larry bought the team, and finished below .500 in just five of those 35 years. All told, the Jazz had a .588 winning percentage since 1985 and a .592 percentage since 1990, second only to the San Antonio Spurs.
Smith will be coming into an ideal situation, running a team that has gone to the postseason after each of the last four regular season campaigns. He’s also got some solid, reliable basketball guys already in key positions on the team, with head coach Quin Snyder signed to a long-term deal and Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik entrenched as president and general manager, respectively.
With two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and burgeoning superstar Donovan Mitchell both eligible for big-time contract extensions, Smith’s Jazz—whose 41.00 odds to win next year’s championship put them at 13th on 888sports—are in line for many more years of serious contention in the Western Conference.