Qualtrics Founder Ryan Smith Buying Majority Interest Of The Utah Jazz

By Amit Chowdhry ● October 29, 2020
  • Gail Miller — the owner and chair of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies (LHM Group) and the Miller family — announced a definitive agreement to sell a majority interest in the Utah Jazz and other sports and entertainment properties to Qualtrics co-founder and technology entrepreneur Ryan Smith

Gail Miller — the owner and chair of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies (LHM Group) and the Miller family — announced a definitive agreement to sell a majority interest in the Utah Jazz and other sports and entertainment properties to Qualtrics co-founder and technology entrepreneur Ryan Smith. Included in the pending transaction are the Utah Jazz, Vivint Arena, the NBA G League Salt Lake City Stars, and management of the Triple-A baseball affiliate Salt Lake Bees. 

Qualtrics was acquired by SAP in January 2019 for $8 billion in the largest private enterprise software acquisition of all time. And Qualtrics is the first company ever to develop a platform to combine customer, employee, product, and brand experience in a single system of action. And Smith has been a strong corporate partner of the Utah Jazz for several years and was co-creator of the “5 For The Fight” jersey patch, which is the first philanthropic jersey patch in the history of North American professional sports. 5 For The Fight has raised over $25 million since the patch partnership launched just three years ago.

Upon the closing of the deal, Smith is going to become the NBA Governor of the Utah Jazz and its affiliates. And he will have final decision-making authority for all business and basketball operations related to the team and other assets included in this transaction. And Steve Starks — in addition to his role as chief executive officer for the LHM Group — will be an advisor.

The closing is subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors and it is expected to take place by the end of the year. Smith is planning to acquire The Zone Sports Network from the Miller family subject to the parties entering into a separate agreement and separate approvals.

Larry H. Miller Dealerships, Larry H. Miller Real Estate, Prestige Financial Services, Salt Lake Bees, and Megaplex Theatres will stay part of the LHM Group. The terms of the deal were undisclosed.

KEY QUOTES:

“I have known Ryan for several years and admire the values by which he and his wife Ashley live their lives. 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.”

“When Larry and I purchased the first half of the Utah Jazz in 1985, we could not comprehend the experiences we would have or the journey we would share with the Utah Jazz family, especially the players and coaches. We have also appreciated our relationships within the NBA and especially our friendships with both Commissioner Stern and Commissioner Silver. Our passionate fans and their unrelenting commitment to the Jazz have been the energy that has propelled us forward, and I sincerely thank them.  I also want to acknowledge and thank our dedicated employees who are the backbone of our operations and who show up day after day to create the ultimate guest experience. They are the best! We have cherished our stewardship of the Utah Jazz and the unifying influence it has been to the citizens of our state. We are also grateful for the broadcast properties, the newly renovated arena and the practice facility as supporting venues.”

“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. This transaction will unlock opportunities that will allow us to continue our stewardship in ways not possible until now. Our mission is and will continue to be to Enrich Lives.”

— Gail Miller

“The Miller family has had an unbelievable impact on countless people through the Utah Jazz and the other organizations they run. 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.”

— Ryan Smith

Photo Credit: Ryan Smith