But Pope, who is entering his second season as the Cougars’ head coach next month, did not have to Google Smith’s name to learn more about him. Pope and his wife, Lee Anne, are close friends with the Smiths and live in the same neighborhood in Orem. “I do know Ryan and Ashley and, I mean, come on, how blessed are we in the state of Utah to have this legendary family like the Millers being stewards over this program, and then have Ryan and Ashley Smith take over the deal?” Pope said Thursday in his weekly press briefing with reporters who cover BYU basketball. “I mean, they are going to blow it up to epic proportions, and they are going to represent the state in such an extraordinary way.”
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So who is the new owner of the Utah Jazz? Here are the high points: Smith is young (42), loves basketball, and has signaled a strong commitment to social justice, particularly racial justice issues. And of course, he’s very wealthy. Prior Jazz owner Miller was born in Salt Lake City and built a business empire starting with car dealerships, then expanding to a television station and movie theaters before purchasing the Jazz in 1985. The price tag was reportedly $22 million for 100% of the Jazz. Miller died in 2009 and passed control of the Jazz to his family.
Smith can afford the markup. He co-founded Qualtrics, with his brother and father, a marketing professor at Brigham Young University, in 2002. In 2018, the company was sold to German business software giant SAP for $8 billion, though it remains an independently run unit and Smith still serves as CEO. The founders’ share of that payday was estimated at $3 billion, and Forbes now estimates Ryan Smith’s personal net worth at $1.3 billion.
Smith has been notably active on social justice causes. In June, at the height of Black Lives Matter protests, Smith announced he would personally match donations by Qualtrics employees to legal defense funds for the movement. In a 2017 Forbes profile, he strategizes with fellow founders about how to attract more diversity to Utah.
Rudy Gobert: Excited to have @RyanQualtrics part of the family! I know that he is completely dedicated to make this organization the best it can be and to continue the great work he’s been doing for our communities. Also Very grateful for the Miller family and the amazing organization that they have built over the years! It’s a new chapter for the Jazz but they will forever be a big part of this team and none of this would be possible without them.
“Obviously, when we started talking about the idea (of selling the team), what-would-Larry-do came up,” Gail Miller said in an exclusive interview with the Deseret News Wednesday afternoon. “I think my most overriding feeling is that I don’t think Larry cares. When he was dying it was really evident that this world no longer mattered to him. His attention was diverted to more important things.
“He put me in charge. He told me, ‘You’re going to be the trustee. You’ve got the institutional knowledge. You do what you think is best.’ He had faith in my judgment and ability to make decisions and take care of things.” After a thorough and open discussion with the family management group — which consists of her five children and grandson — she says they agreed the time was right to sell the team. “We all had to come to the conclusion on our own,” said Miller. “Some were slower to come to the party. In the end we all saw the wisdom in this decision, which opens an asset we can do so much more with.”
Eben Novy-Williams. Where does the @utahjazz sale price rank alongside other recent @NBA deals? @LevAkabas breaks it down here Given that this is a pandemic, and Salt Lake isn’t LA, NYC or Houston, I’d say that’s a pretty darn good number for the NBA #SportsBiz
Tony Jones: Just to piggyback on the news of the day. For the time being, Gail Miller will retain a 20 percent share of the Utah Jazz
Joe Ingles: Thank you to Gail & the entire Miller family for everything you have done for the @Utah Jazz. You risked everything to buy the team & keep it here in Utah. My family feels incredibly lucky to be a part of this organisation!! You will always be a huge part of the @Utah Jazz success!
Rudy Gobert: Excited to have @Ryan Smith part of the family! I know that he is completely dedicated to make this organization the best it can be and to continue the great work he’s been doing for our communities. Also Very grateful for the Miller family and the amazing organization that they have built over the years! It’s a new chapter for the Jazz but they will forever be a big part of this team and none of this would be possible without them.
“We’re extremely excited to continue this journey and build upon the legacy that’s here and that’s honestly what’s made this possible,” Ryan Smith said. “And there’s not really another team or another opportunity that we would do this with and there’s no one I’d rather do it with and my wife Ashley and she’s been pretty wise and not let us explore other opportunities outside of Utah.”
Smith has expressed interest in owning a professional sports franchise for several years, and said he had approached the Miller’s previously about one day owning the team. “I’ve approached Gail and the Millers a couple of times,’ Smith said. “There’s no secret about my interest in the NBA. And there’s really no secret about my interest in the Jazz. I grew up watching the Jazz, this is the team I’ve cheered for.”
Tim Bontemps: New Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith: “We couldn’t be more grateful” for the Miller family’s time owning the franchise.
Adrian Wojnarowski: After 35 years of stewardship, the Millers have entered into an agreement to sell the Utah Jazz to Qualtrics founder @RyanQualtrics, sources tell ESPN.
The NBA’s Utah Jazz have reached an agreement to be sold to Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith for $1.6 billion dollars, according to people familiar with the matter.
Davide Chinellato: Jazz announce the team is going from the Miller family, who owned it for 35 years, to Ryan Smith, co-founder of Qualtrics. Deal includes also Vivint Arena, the G-League affiliate and the Triple-A baseball team Salt Lake Bees. Deal is pending #NBA Board of Governors approval
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November 27, 2020 | 1:34 pm EST Update
Adrian Wojnarowski: Free agent F Alize Johnson has agreed to a deal with the Toronto Raptors, source tells ESPN. Johnson spent the past two seasons with the Pacers.
November 27, 2020 | 12:32 pm EST Update
The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed guard Donovan Mitchell to a contract extension. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released. “We are thrilled to be able to ensure that a person and a player like Donovan Mitchell will be with the Jazz organization for the long term,” said Jazz Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey. “His work ethic, passion and commitment to winning are all qualities that encapsulate Jazz basketball and ever since he arrived in Utah, Donovan has deepened those values for our team. We look forward to helping him continue to grow and continue to make a positive impact in our community.”
Eric Walden: Donovan Mitchell, on getting his second contract: “I wouldn’t say it was hanging over my head. To do what I did my rookie year, I was in shock. I’m gonna continue to be the same player that got me here.”