NBA governors approve Utah Jazz sale to Ryan Smith

The NBA Board of Governors on Friday unanimously approved the sale of the Utah Jazz to entrepreneur Ryan Smith.

Smith, the co-founder of software company Qualtrics, purchased the majority share of the franchise for a reported $1.66 billion from the Miller family, which will hold on to a minority stake.

“I grew up as a big Jazz fan, and that makes this day even more special,” Smith said in a statement. “The Jazz have a phenomenal leadership team who will continue to guide the organization. We are all committed to building, and to building in Utah.”

Sale includes Vivint Arena

The move was announced in October by Gail Miller, who with her late husband, Larry, bought the team in the mid-1980s. The deal also includes the sale of Vivint Arena, the Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA G League and management of the Triple-A baseball affiliate Salt Lake Bees. The Millers will continue to own the Bees.

“Ryan Smith is a forward-thinking, community-minded entrepreneur and business leader who will be a fantastic addition to our league,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “As a lifelong fan of the Utah Jazz and more recently as one of their key marketing partners, Ryan has demonstrated his deep commitment to the Jazz and the Utah community and there’s no doubt he will bring that same level of dedication to the operation of the team.”

Vivint Smart Home Arena, Utah Jazz
Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Jazz were founded in New Orleans in 1974 and moved to Salt Lake City five years later. Larry and Gail Miller bought 50 percent of the team in May 1985 to prevent it from leaving Utah, then bought the remaining half the following year.

Larry Miller passed away in 2009 at age 64. He earned his wealth through car dealerships and other businesses.

Under coaches Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan, the Jazz reached the NBA playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons between 1983 and 2003, losing in the finals in back-to-back seasons to the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and ’98.

They have made the playoffs the past four seasons, twice losing in the Western Conference semifinals.

“We are also extraordinarily appreciative of Gail Miller, Greg Miller and the Miller family for 35 years of outstanding leadership and service and, on behalf of the entire NBA, thank them for always running a first-class organization in every way,” Silver said.

Strong ties between Jazz, Qualtrics

Smith started Qualtrics in 2002 with his father and brother, then sold it last year but remains CEO. Qualtrics is the sponsor of the team’s jersey patch, which reads 5 For The Fight instead of the company name.

Vivint Smart Home Arena, Utah Jazz
Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Smith co-founded 5 For The Fight, which crowdfunds for cancer research by inviting everyone to donate $5. The cause has raised more than $26 million since the patch partnership began three years ago.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)