SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah Jazz are synonymous with the Miller family.
But that 35-year stewardship is coming to an end.
“Today is a day I’ve never been able to imagine,” Gail Miller said, announcing she is selling the team to 42-year-old Qualtrics founder and CEO Ryan Smith.
It’s difficult to think of the Jazz without thinking of the Miller family. They basically saved the franchise from moving twice to Las Vegas and Minnesota, and after placing the team in a trust three years ago to ensure the team would not move, Miller is confident Smith will honor that agreement.
“I am fully convinced that with this sale, the objectives of that trust will still be honored,” she said. “I want you to know that the new owners have made the same commitment to keep the team in Utah.”
Smith, who grew up in Utah and attended BYU before becoming the founder of an $8-billion software company, sounds like he has every intention to keep the Jazz in Utah.
“There’s really no secret about my interest in the Jazz,” Smith said. “I grew up watching the Jazz. This is the team I cheered for. I played Junior Jazz. I dreamed of playing for the Jazz, but that didn’t work out. The legacy that you have created is untouchable. We’re all just incredibly grateful for that. The Jazz are a gift to this whole community, and that’s how we view it.”
When Larry Miller bought the Jazz in 1985, the team was in financial trouble. But he built the team into a perennial playoff power, nearly winning an NBA title twice, and built the Delta Center in 1991.
“We have experienced intense emotions,” Gail Miller said. “Some high and some low, but we’ve enjoyed all of it.”
Larry Miller passed away in 2009 due to complications from diabetes.
In these tough economic times with revenues from all of its companies down, the LHM group had to lay off 40 percent of its workforce.
Many Jazz players chimed in on Twitter including Rudy Gobert, who said, “Very grateful for the Miller family and the amazing organization that they have built over the years! It’s a new chapter for the Jazz but they will forever be a big part of this team and none of this would be possible without them.”
After building a legacy that will last forever, Miller said it is extremely emotional to sell the team, even though she will maintain a minority ownership role with the team.
“I want to thank my family, who has been very supportive and unified, the players, the coaches and staff, our employees, and especially our fans,” she said. “I also want to thank Larry for making this absolutely remarkable journey possible.”