WASHINGTON (AFP) — Ryan Smith, co-founder of software developer Qualtrics, has agreed to purchase the NBA’s Utah Jazz from the Miller family, which has owned the club for 35 years, the team announced Wednesday.
The deal, worth a reported $1.66 billion, must be approved by NBA owners before being finalized, a move expected to come before the end of the year.
Forbes magazine ranked the Jazz at 21st in value among the NBA’s 30 clubs earlier this year at $1.55 billion.
The sale brings Smith, 40, a majority interest in the team, the Jazz’s home, Vivint Arena, plus developmental basketball and baseball clubs in Salt Lake City.
Smith, a lifelong Utah resident, has been a corporate partner of the Jazz for many years, including a philanthropic patch that has raised $25 million in recent years.
“I have known Ryan for several years and admire the values by which he and his wife, Ashley, live their lives. They have such love for and a connection to Utah and this team,” said Gail Miller, chair of the Larry H. Miller Group.
“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.”
The Miller family will retain a minority interest in the Jazz, who went 44-28 last season and lost to Denver in the first round of the playoffs.
“We all owe a great debt to the Miller family for the amazing stewardship they have had over this asset for the past 35 years,” Smith said.
“My wife and I are absolutely humbled and excited about the opportunity to take the team forward far into the future — especially with the greatest fans in the NBA. We look forward to building upon their lifelong work.”