Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith Is Buying A Majority Stake In The Utah Jazz

By on November 5, 2020 in ArticlesSports News

The Utah Jazz are about to have a new owner. Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, and his wife Ashley are purchasing the majority stake of the team from Gail Miller and her family. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Millers are selling the team for more than $1.6 billion. The deal includes Vivint Arena, the Salt Lake City Stars, and a management agreement with the Salt Lake Bees. 

In a separate deal, Smith will also purchase The Zone Sports Radio Network. The Millers will retain their other properties, which include car dealerships, real estate, financial services, and movie theaters.

"There's no secret about my interest in the NBA, and there's really no secret about my interest in the Jazz," Smith said at a press conference announcing the deal. "I grew up watching the Jazz. This is the team I've cheered for. I played Junior Jazz. I dreamed of playing for the Jazz but that didn't work out."

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Miller and her late husband, Larry, bought 50 percent of the Jazz in 1985 for $8 million. The following year, they bought the other 50 percent for $14 million. Now, selling a majority stake for north of $1.6 billion is quite the return on their investment.

Smith is a Utah native — he grew up in the state, attended BYU, and his company headquarters are in Provo, UT.

In 2002, Ryan Smith founded Qualtrics with his brother Jared, dad Scott, and Stuart Orgill. The survey software company provides analytics for businesses, making the pairing with the NBA a solid fit.

For the first decade of its existence, Qualtrics never took any funding from venture capitalists. It ran purely off of its own revenue and lean business operations.

In 2017, Qualtrics donated the team's Jazz jersey patch to 5 For The Fight, the first time a team had a jersey patch dedicated to a cause. That strengthened the bond between Smith and the Millers. And it likely played a big role in Smith purchasing the team.

The following year, Qualtrics had a planned IPO for an estimated $8 billion. But just before that happened, SAP acquired the company instead. Smith was reluctant to sell because he didn't want to give up control of his company. But he eventually relented, and he, his brother, and father each made $1.1 billion on the deal.

SAP is still preparing for an IPO with Qualtrics, but that timeline has been pushed back a bit. Smith likely doesn't mind, as the company's 2019 cloud growth was 40% higher than expected.

As a little added intrigue, Qualtrics also has offices in several other cities, including Seattle. That's got people wondering if the Jazz are set to move to Seattle, who hasn't had a franchise since the Sonics left more than a decade ago. But Smith is a lifelong Jazz fan, and the team also has a trust in place preventing a move, so don't get too hopeful, Sonics fans.

For now, Smith will likely have a bit more paperwork to fill out. He never realized his dream of playing in the NBA, but owning a team is a pretty good consolation prize.

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