Ryan Smith Intends To Keep Jazz In Utah After Buying Team
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz will be under new ownership by the end of the year. At a press conference today, Gail Miller, Chairwoman and owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies announced her family was selling the majority control over the Jazz to Qualtrics CEO and co-founder Ryan Smith and his wife Ashley. Smith, 40, and a Utah native said he intends to keep the team in the state.
“We’re extremely excited to continue this journey and build upon the legacy that’s here and that’s honestly what’s made this possible,” Smith said. “And there’s not really another team or another opportunity that we would do this with and there’s no one I’d rather do it with and my wife Ashley and she’s been pretty wise and not let us explore other opportunities outside of Utah.”
In 2017, the Miller family put the team into a Legacy Trust designed to keep the team in the state for generations. Wednesday’s announcement is a sharp reversal of course, though Miller said she believes the Smith’s intend to keep the team in Utah.
“I am fully convinced that with this sale, the objectives of that trust will still be honored,” Miller said. “And I want you to know that the new owners have made the same commitment to keep the team in Utah.”
The Jazz first moved to Utah from New Orleans in 1979 under owner Sam Battistone. The Miller’s purchased half of the team from Battistone in 1985, and the full share of the organization in 1986.
“I believe Ryan and Ashley embody the things that we as a family hold dear,” Miller said. “And as I said before they are absolutely committed to keeping the Jazz in Utah.”
Smith Had Sought To Buy Jazz Before
Smith has expressed interest in owning a professional sports franchise for several years, and said he had approached the Miller’s previously about one day owning the team.
“I’ve approached Gail and the Millers a couple of times,’ Smith said. “There’s no secret about my interest in the NBA. And there’s really no secret about my interest in the Jazz. I grew up watching the Jazz, this is the team I’ve cheered for.”
After Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen announced he was opting to sell the organization, Smith tweeted that he was interested in purchasing the franchise.
“I’m in…they got my number,” Smith said via a Tweet in response to a fan asking him to purchase the team.
The Qualtrics CEO and his wife Ashley are lifelong basketball fans and said they remain committed to the Miller’s vision of keeping the franchise in the state.
“We love basketball, we love the Jazz, and we really love Utah,” Ashley Smith said. “So this is an awesome event for us. We are blown away and honored that we get to share this experience with Utah and Jazz nation.”
Smith and Qualtics have been a corporate sponsor of the Jazz for years. Qualtrics was the first sponsor of the team’s jersey patch dating back to 2017 when they bought the 2 1/2 inch square of jersey space in 2017 and committed to using the opportunity to raise money in the fight against cancer.
The sale of the team is expected to be completed by the end of the year.