SALT LAKE CITY – On Wednesday, Gail Miller said that 2020, like so much of her life, has been an ‘unexpected journey’, with the last unexpected moment being the sale of Utah Jazz
The sale announcement from the Miller family to local tech entrepreneur Ryan Smith came as a shock to most, after 35 years of family leading the team
Perhaps the only person who wasn’t shocked by the news is Smith, who said it wasn’t the first time he’s shown interest in buying the team
« I approached Gail and the Millers on several occasions, » said Smith « There is no secret about my interest in the NBA, and there really is no secret about my interest in Jazz »
The sale, which the league sources say was worth $ 1.6 billion, includes the Utah Jazz and NBA G League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars, Vivint Arena and the « management » of Triple’s Salt Lake Bees -A baseball Additionally, Smith plans to buy Zone Sports radio network as part of a separate deal
Miller will continue to hold a minority stake in Jazz, with Smith becoming the majority owner of the team
A large number of fans on social media, hearing the news Wednesday, wondered if a change in ownership would mean a move for Team Smith, founder and CEO of Qualtrics, is originally from Utah and former BYU student who has been linked to the team in several ways over the past few years Smith is the co-creator of the « 5 For The Fight » charity fund, which has become the sponsored jersey patch worn by jazz players The charity has raised over $ 25 million for cancer research in the three years since its partnership with Jazz
Qualtrics has offices in several cities, but its headquarters are in Provo and Seattle It was the connection to Seattle that worried fans a bit
In 2017, when Miller announced that ownership of the Jazz would be transferred to an inherited trust, she recalled something the late Larry H Miller said when the family originally bought the team: « Jazz can’t leave Utah We have to do all we can to keep them here »
On Wednesday, with LHM Group President Steve Starks to his left, Smith and his wife Ashley to his right, Gail Miller assured him the Smiths would continue the Jazz legacy in Utah
« I have full confidence that with this sale the goals of that trust will always be honored and I want you to know that the new owners have made the same commitment to keep the team in Utah, » said Miller
Smith noticed that he grew up and encouraged jazz throughout his life and even performed in the Junior Jazz program in his youth
“We couldn’t be more humble,” he said. “We couldn’t be more honored by your trust. Your stewardship and your 35-year legacy is one that, in my opinion, as Utahns , we all owe a debt to you and the Miller family Our pledge is that we will build on this legacy «
The sale, which has been agreed to by both sides, will only be official after full approval by the NBA Board of Governors, which is expected according to multiple league sources Once the sale is finalized, Smith will be Jazz’s governor and representative at league meetings, with full financial control and decision-making power.
There is no reason to believe that a change in ownership will result in a change in the front office of Jazz Starks will remain an advisor to Smith in addition to his role within the LHM group, and although the press conference took place virtually, a few were in attendance including Jazz Executive Vice President Dennis Lindsey and General Manager Justin Zanik
The deal comes at a precarious time for the NBA, and the Jazz and Smith will have to get their act together despite not being able to answer questions from the media on Wednesday as the sale is still pending approval, Smith faces tough questions ahead
The main one among these is how much is he willing to spend? And, to what extent will he be involved in the decision-making process?
Lindsey has previously said the Millers have continued to give their full support to all front office decisions, including financially, but that doesn’t mean the Millers and Jazz Brass haven’t paid attention to the cap. salary expenses
Although Larry H Miller was known to be quite hands-on and involved, since his death in 2009, Gail Miller has taken a step back and allowed the front office to operate on its own for the most part. As young people continue to join the ranks of NBA ownership, they have become more forward-looking rather than going into the background
It remains to be seen how involved Smith will be in the day-to-day operations of the team.What we do know about Smith, 42, is that he is an avid basketball and jazz fan, is regularly seen in his seats on the court near the Jazz bench, has a basketball half court at Qualtrics headquarters, is lively on social media and has been fierce defender of the right of jazz players to be activists for causes of social justice
While some might argue that a fan of this magnitude could disrupt decision-making processes, it’s also important to note that Smith built Qualtrics from the ground up and into a company that sold $ 8 billion. to SAP in 2018 The company now has offices in 25 cities around the world with more than 3,000 employees This type of growth requires the ability to delegate and trust management, traits that are at the heart of owning a ‘an NBA team
Financially, the Jazz are very likely to see an immediate future that includes the payment of the luxury tax, with extension decisions to be made for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, as well as the reappointment of Jordan Clarkson. this offseason Smith’s willingness or unwillingness to spend will impact the future of the team in one way or another
Smith is also entering NBA ownership at one of the strangest moments in NBA history, after a season that was suspended by a pandemic and just ended in early October
With the pay cuts, indecisive schedules, the likelihood that fans will not return to arenas immediately, and the ongoing negotiations between the league, the board of governors and the players’ association, Smith is absolutely going to have work for him the next few weeks
Utah Jazz, Gail Miller, Qualtrics, Larry H Miller, Utah
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