The Miller family sold the NBA’s Utah Jazz to the co-founder of a software company for a reported $1.66 billion (USD).
It is the fourth highest purchase price paid for a basketball franchise, behind the Brooklyn Nets ($2.35 billion in 2019), Houston Rockets ($2.2 billion in 2017), and LA Clippers ($2 billion in 2014).
But it’s a mind-blowing sum when you consider the sale happened in the middle of a pandemic – and the Jazz are located in one of the smallest markets in the league.
Forbes magazine ranked the Jazz at 21st in value among the NBA’s 30 clubs earlier this year at $1.55 billion.
How much of a role will analytics play in the future of sports business?? Consider this… The Utah Jazz are being sold to Ryan Smith, CEO and founder of Qualtrics. The sale is estimated at $1.6B. The team was purchased for $22M. https://t.co/ACF9qw3L1r
— Windy Dees (@getDeestweets) October 28, 2020
But the Miller family did a little better, completing the incredible rags-to-riches tale of Larry H. Miller, who bought the team in two transactions for a total of just $26.8 million in the mid-1980s.
Miller was a softball pitcher who worked as a parts manager for Toyota before buying his own dealership with the help of his uncle in 1979.
From that small beginning, his portfolio grew to include dozens of car dealerships, a string of movie theatre, a TV station and other businesses while satisfying his love of sports through the Jazz and a minor league baseball franchise.
Miller died in 2009 after enduring just a single losing season in 25 years of ownership but handed control of the team to his widow, Gail.
— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) October 28, 2020
She’s now handed over the franchise to 40-year-old Ryan Smith, who will take a majority interest in the team, the Jazz’s stadium Vivint Arena plus developmental basketball and baseball clubs in Salt Lake City when the other 29 NBA owners approve the sale.
Smith has a success story of his own, co-founding Qualtrics, a software program that allows businesses to create surveys, in 2002 before selling it for $8 billion in 2018.