New Utah Jazz Owner Details How He Just ‘Looked at the Forbes Valuation’ and Bought the Team

Published 01/06/2021, 1:24 PM EST
Jan 1, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) reacts after a basket against the LA Clippers in the fourth quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports


2020 was tough not just because of the lives lost, but also from an economic and financial perspective as well. Most of the world had a significant downfall in their overall wealth. But not so much for the Miller family, who sold the NBA franchise Utah Jazz for a cool $1.66 billion to Ryan Smith.

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Ryan Smith is the CEO and co-founder of Qualtrics, an experience management company based in Utah. The tech-savvy Billionaire was on the market looking for a sports team in Utah in the summer of 2020.

Dec 12, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) grab a rebound against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) in the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

“Something happened in July where I just kept pushing a little bit. And one thing lined up. Then the soccer team (Real Salt Lake) became available,” said Smith in a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski.

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Smith was good friends with the Millers and asked them to co-own the Real Salt Lake team with them. One thing led to another, and he came out as the owner of the Jazz when this conversation ended.

“Then I talked to the Millers ‘Would you Wanna be in with me?’ And the reality is that they were like ‘well, no’. Then I said ‘well, how about if I buy the soccer team and then we put it together with the Jazz’. And they said ‘if we are gonna do a little piece of the Jazz, we were gonna do the whole thing.'”

“And I said ‘Is that an option?!’ They said ‘Are you making an offer?’ Then I literally pulled out my phone and looked at the Forbes valuation… I said ‘well there’s your offer for the Jazz’, and they took it back and it was accepted.”

Ryan Smith’s massive contract decisions since taking over at Utah Jazz

The new owner is already making his presence felt with the franchise. Since coming on board in October, the Jazz front office has made a couple of era-defining decisions – Handing Max Contracts to Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

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They handed a deal close to $200 Million to each of them, tying them to five years with the team. These are the type of long-term contracts that can bind the future of a franchise.

Dec 12, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and center Rudy Gobert (27) battle for the rebound against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) and center Deandre Ayton (22) in the second quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

While Donovan Mitchell’s Max contract has been largely approved by the NBA community, Gobert’s deal attracted eyeballs. It has come under the scanner from ex-players, analysts, and even their own fanbase is questioning it.

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If it was the right decision or not, only time will tell. But what we can commend is the firmness and bravery he showed in this situation. Maybe the Jazz fans have got their very own Mark Cuban. And maybe they will also see the Larry O’Brien trophy in their city like Dallas one day.

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Bharat Aggarwal

753 articles

Bharat Aggarwal is a sports analyst for EssentiallySports, covering Formula 1 and NBA. A Delhi University graduate, Bharat has multi-year experience in sports writing, having closely worked with the content strategy aspect as well. Bharat Aggarwal supports Manchester United, Lewis Hamilton, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, Dirk Nowitzki, Sachin Tendulkar, Ayrton Senna, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dallas Mavericks.

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