SALT LAKE CITY — After 35 years, the Miller family has entered into an agreement to sell the Utah Jazz.
"There's no question that we have had a long and rewarding journey these last 35 years," Gail Miller said during an emotional announcement Tuesday. "Today is a day I have never been able to imagine."
The Millers will sell the team to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith, the co-creator of the "5 For the Fight" jersey patch the team wears on its jerseys. Smith is a lifelong Jazz fan who sold his Utah-based technology company for $8 billion in 2019.
ESPN reports Smith will purchase the team for $1.66 billion.
But the sale of the Jazz by the owners who have run the franchise for over three decades will come as a shock to fans and residents.
“I have known Ryan for several years and admire the values by which he and his wife Ashley live their lives,” said Miller. “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. Our family remains invested in the success of the Utah Jazz and these businesses, and we will retain a minority interest.”
The deal includes Vivint Smart Home Arena, the G League Salt Lake City Stars and management of Triple-A baseball's Salt Lake Bees.
Smith, 42, will become the NBA Governor of the Jazz and have final decision-making authority for the franchise.
“The Miller family has had an unbelievable impact on countless people through the Utah Jazz and the other organizations they run,” said Smith. “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. 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. The Utah Jazz, the state of Utah, and its capital city are the beneficiaries of the Millers’ tremendous love, generosity and investment. We look forward to building upon their lifelong work.”
The "5 For the Fight" jersey patch was the first philanthropic patch in the history of U.S. pro sports and has helped raise over $25 million in three years to fight cancer.
In a statement, Gail Miller said she would retain a minority interest in the team and that the sale was done to insure the Jazz would remain in Utah and would help with her family's estate planning.
"I am fully persuaded that with this sale, the objectives of the trust will be honored, and the new owners have made the same commitment to keep the team in Utah. This transaction will unlock opportunities that will allow us to continue our stewardship in ways not possible until now. Our mission is and will continue to be to Enrich Lives.”
Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted his support of the sale and what it means for making sure the Jazz remain in Utah.
"Congratulations to the Miller family. They have developed a terrific franchise in the Utah Jazz — and congratulations to Ryan Smith for investing in the Jazz and in Utah. I wish all involved great success, and thank them for all they’ve done to make Utah the state of sport."
The sale of the team to Smith must be approved by the NBA Board of Governors in a vote expected to take place by the end of the year.
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