The majority interest of the Utah Jazz is being sold to technology entrepreneur Ryan Smith, a move that will end the Miller family’s 35-year run as owners of the franchise when formally approved by the NBA.
After 35 years of running the Utah Jazz franchise, The Miller family era came to an end, as reportedly, another Utah native and tech entrepreneur Ryan Smith are getting ready to acquire the majority interest in the team out of Salt Lake City.
Smith, 40, is the co-founder of Qualtrics, a tech company specializing in online survey research and cloud computing. He started the company with his brother in their parents’ basement in 2002 – Karl Malone and John Stockton were still playing for the team. Today Qualtrics has more than 8,500 enterprise customers including over 75% of the Fortune 100, 1,800 colleges and universities worldwide, and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools.
With his acquisition of the Jazz, Smith will become one of the youngest NBA owners and become another member of the NBA’s board of governors with roots in the tech industry.
Gail Miller, known as the wealthiest woman in Utah with a net worth of $1.9 billion, has publicly stated that she has known Smith and his wife for some time now and that Smith’s genuine interest in acquiring the Jazz resulted in the Miller family giving the organization up for sale.
“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 will continue to move the team to the next level.”Gail Miller, NBA.com
Although the full details of the sale haven’t been disclosed, it is reported that Smith cashed out $1.6 billion in order to become the new owner of the Utah Jazz and their arena. The sale is yet to be approved by the NBA’s board of governors, but as soon as that’s done, Smith will become the team’s new official governor, with the Miller family retaining a minor stake in the franchise.
The story of Ryan Smith is another one of tech-based entrepreneurs making their dreams come true in order to become NBA owners. A trend we’re sure will only get bigger as tech and fin-tech industries have been on a steady rise.