The Miller Family is ending 30 years as owners of the Utah Jazz after they reached an agreement with Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the deal is worth over $1.6 billion.
Smith, 40, is a lifelong Utah resident and Jazz fan who built software company Qualtrics before it sold for a reported $8 billion in November 2018. Smith had a longstanding relationship with the franchise, which included a philanthropic jersey path that raised over $25 million in recent years.
The Miller family, owners of the Jazz for 35 years, has overseen significant success: 16 50-win seasons, nine division titles and two Western Conference championships. Only the San Antonio Spurs have a better winning percentage than the Jazz (1470-1014, .592) since the 1989-90 season.
Gail Miller and his late husband, Larry, bought the team in the mid-1980s, making it a competitive franchise that reached two NBA Finals and were very close to winning if it wasn’t for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. They bought 50% of the franchise in May 1985 before they got the other 50% in 1986 to become principal owners.
Mrs. Miller talked about the purchase, saying she’s known Smith for quite some time now and the family felt it was the right time to give this responsibility to someone else, while they will keep minority investment in the team.
“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 moved 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.”
They have reached an agreement and now the NBA board of governors has the final say on this. They must approve the sale to make things official.