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The story behind Ryan Smith, announced next owner of the Utah Jazz

Posted at 6:54 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 20:54:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY — If the NBA Board of Governors approves the sale, Ryan Smith will become the new owner of the Utah Jazz.

Ryan Smith, born and raised here in Utah, is well-known most for creating a multi-billion dollar company named Qualtrics.

His closest friends said Smith has always been known as a Jazz fan.

1985 was when Gail and Larry Mill bought the Utah Jazz. At the time, Larry was 41 years old.

At 42 years old, Smith was handed stewardship of the Jazz.

“If anyone can do it, Ryan Smith can,” said Clint Betts, who has known Smith for decades.

Betts is the President and CEO of Silicon Slopes. From the moment he met Smith as a business associate, he knew Smith would one day own an NBA team.

“Did I think he would own the Utah Jazz? I didn’t even know you could own the Utah Jazz,” said Betts.

Smith created an online survey tech company in his parent’s basement in Provo.

“It started out as a way universities could expand their research,” said Betts.

Jayson Edwards, the founder of JDawgs, remembers spending time in the basement while Smith created his business.

“Ryan Smith is a very giving, kind-hearted and compassionate person,” said Edwards.

In 2019, Smith sold Qualtrics to SAP for $8 billion—making the largest private software sale of all time.

“He’s going to bring that same passion and that energy that he brought to building one of the most successful technology companies of all time,” said Derek Andersen, a college friend of Smith’s. “He’s going to bring that to leading the Jazz in this new era.”

Smith was named one of Forbes’ “America’s most promising CEO’s under 35.”

In 2016, Smith co-founded the “Five for the Fight” campaign for cancer research—raising more than $25 million in three years.

“Ryan Smith went to the Utah Jazz and said, I’ll pay you what it costs to put a patch on the jersey but let’s raise awareness for cancer not for what Qualtrics,” said Betts.

An LLC operated by Smith donated $50,000 to Spencer Cox’s Gubernatorial campaign in 2020.

“He’s going to care about this team the same way he cares about this state,” said Betts.

Smith grew up playing Junior Jazz and has been a season ticket holder as long as Betts has known him.

Smith’s wife Ashley was at the press conference on Wednesday.

The couple has five kids.

“I believe he’s going to bring the State and the Jazz its first championship,” said Betts.

The agreement between Miller and Smith still needs to be approved by the NBA Board of Governors, which is expected by the end of the year.

Miller will still hold a minority interest and remain invested in the Jazz’s success.