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Utah Jazz to be sold to Ryan Smith, ending Millers’ three-decade run as owners

The Miller family has entered into an agreement to sell the Utah Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, sources told ESPN.

Smith, 40, is a lifelong Utah resident and Jazz fan who built software company Qualtrics before it sold for a reported $8 billion. Smith had a long-standing relationship with the Jazz franchise, which included a philanthropic jersey patch that raised more than $25 million in recent years.

The NBA board of governors must formally approve the sale.

“I’ve approached Gail and the Millers a couple times,” Smith said at a news conference Wednesday morning inside Vivint Smart Home Arena. “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 cheered for. I played Junior Jazz. I dreamed of playing for the Jazz, and that didn’t work out. But as I was sitting there this week in the Junior Jazz program you guys started, with hundreds of kids running around, the legacy you’ve created is untouchable. We’re all incredibly grateful for that. The Jazz are a gift to this whole community, and that’s how we view it. That’s 100 percent how we view this.”

The Miller family, owners of the Jazz for 35 years, has overseen significant success: 16 50-win seasons, nine division titles and two Western Conference championships. Only the San Antonio Spurs have a better winning percentage than the Jazz (1,470-1,014, .592) since the 1989-90 season.

Gail Miller, 77, put the team into a legacy trust in 2017 but said the goal of that trust — keeping the franchise in Utah for the long term — had been accomplished by the sale to Smith.

“Now there’s been a lot of attention given in recent years to my putting the team in a legacy trust,” Miller said. “This was done in connection with my estate plan, with the objective of assuring our loyal fans that the team would remain in Utah. I am fully convinced that with this sale, the objectives of that trust will still be honored, and I want you to know the new owners have made the same commitment to keep the team in Utah.”

Smith takes over a basketball operation that remains in strong shape, including four straight playoff appearances. The Jazz have a roster expected to compete in the upper echelon of the Western Conference and two star players, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, eligible to sign contract extensions. Coach Quin Snyder recently signed a long-term contract, and Jazz president Dennis Lindsey and general manager Justin Zanik remain in place.

Gail Miller and her late husband, Larry, are credited with saving the Jazz in Utah, purchasing control of the team in the mid-1980s when there were fears that the franchise’s financial strife could have caused the team to be sold and moved. The Millers bought 50% of the franchise in May 1985 and acquired the other 50% in 1986 to become principal owners. The family will retain a minority interest in the team.

“There’s no question that we have had a long and rewarding journey these last 35 years,” Miller said, growing emotional as she spoke. “Today is a day I have never been able to imagine.”

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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