Ryan Smith, CEO and co-founder of software company Qualtrics, is buying the NBA’s Utah Jazz. The deal for a majority share of the team is reportedly worth more than $1.6 billion.
The sale includes Vivint Smart Home Arena — the Jazz’s home court — the G League’s Salt Lake City Stars and the Triple-A PCL Salt Lake Bees.
The late Larry Miller and his family had owned the team since 1986, when he purchased it for $24 million. Under the Miller family, the team had 16 50-win seasons, won nine division titles and two Western Conference championships.
“I have known Ryan for several years and admire the values by which he and his wife Ashley live their lives,” Gail Miller, owner and chair of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, said in an announcement. “They have such love for and a connection to Utah and this team. Because of our friendship and several high-level conversations over the years, Ryan recently approached our organization to inquire about the possibility of purchasing the Utah Jazz and some of our other sports and entertainment properties.”
“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 move the team to the next level,” Miller added. “Our family remains invested in the success of the Utah Jazz and these businesses, and we will retain a minority interest.”
The NBA Board of Governors still has to formally approve the sale. Assuming the sale is approved, Smith will become governor of the Jazz and its affiliates; LHM Group CEO Steve Starks will be an advisor.
The Provo, Utah-based Qualtrics has been a longtime sponsor of the team, and is signed on to be its jersey patch sponsor through 2023 — but donated the patch to cancer research fundraising organization 5 For The Fight. The patch has reportedly raised over $25 million.
Qualtrics was acquired by SAP in 2018 for a reported $8 billion as it was said to be considering an IPO, but in July, SAP announced plans to now take it public anyway.
Forbes ranked the Jazz as the NBA’s 21st most-valuable franchise, worth $1.55 billion, in February.