New RSL owners vow to bring community together, return women’s soccer to Utah

Real Salt Lake

SANDY, Utah (ABC4) – With the introduction of a new name, seated next to a familiar face, Real Salt Lake entered its next era in the Utah sports landscape.

Alongside Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, the club presented David Blitzer and Ryan Smith, who also is the majority owner of the Utah Jazz, as its new ownership group in a press conference on Thursday.

Blitzer and Smith’s purchase of the club, for a reported $400 million or so, marked the end of an exhaustive sale process that began with former owner Dell Loy Hansen’s announcement to sell his stakes on August 30, 2020. Hansen’s liquidation of the team came as a result of reports and outcry of alleged racist and sexist behavior in his role as the owner.

Utah sports fans may already be familiar with Smith, the billionaire founder of Qualtrics, as the head of the NBA’s Jazz after buying the majority of the franchise from the Miller family in Oct. 2020.

Donning an RSL jacket and addressing the media without his signature flat brim hat, Smith revealed that he had previously been exploring a purchase of Real Salt Lake before buying the Jazz.

Now, he says, the possibility of intertwining his resources with the Jazz with the infrastructure that had been built with Real Salt Lake is “pretty powerful.”

“The synergistic opportunities are many,” Smith stated, noting that RSL would operate as a separate entity from the Jazz’s front office. “And hopefully you’ll see that. The most important thing here is that the vision is lined up.”

NBA legend and Jazz minority owner Dwyane Wade also tweeted his excitement at the move, noting he would be a part of the synergy alluded to by Smith.

While locals may not know Blitzer nearly as well as Smith, the private equity investor from the East Coast already holds a deep portfolio of sports franchises around the globe. In addition to Real Salt Lake, Blitzer holds significant shares in the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, and international soccer clubs including Crystal Palace FC, FC Augsburg, and Waasland-Beveren.

According to Blitzer, who joked he was a great high school player but never was able to take his playing abilities any further, he had long been looking for a way into MLS. When Real Salt Lake hit the market, the opportunity was extremely intriguing. Adding Smith, who he knew from NBA circles, to the mix sealed the deal.

“We understand how powerful it can be to have sports teams in a community and how it brings those communities together and how we create benefits much more broadly than just sitting within an arena or a stadium or out on the court or the pitch,” said Blitzer who added he had been visiting Utah for years on skiing trips. “I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Ryan and to be in this market and to be part of this journey for RSL”

As part of that journey, two new owners stated their intent in reviving an aspect of the pro soccer scene had been lost. Hansen had ceased operations of National Women’s Soccer League club, Utah Royals FC, in 2020, losing the players and team assets to the Kansas City market. Blitzer and Smith, however, are determined to bring the NWSL back to the state.

“We’re huge believers in women’s soccer in the NWSL,” Blitzer stated. “Obviously, from the standpoint of this market and the fan base and from our perspective, we both agreed very, very clearly on day one that we want to make that happen.”

RSL is slated to make its debut in the Blitzer-Smith era in a regular-season match on Feb. 27 against Houston Dynamo FC.

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