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NBA approves Utah Jazz sale to Qualtrics founder

A security guard walks past a "TAKE NOTE" sign on the Vivint Smart Home Arena Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Salt Lake City. The majority interest of the Utah Jazz is being sold to technology entrepreneur Ryan Smith, a move that when formally approved by the NBA will end the Miller family's 35-year run as owners of the franchise. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of the Utah Jazz Friday to Qualtrics founder and CEO Ryan Smith.

Included in the transaction, announced in October, are the Utah Jazz, Vivint Arena, the National Basketball Association G League Salt Lake City Stars, and management of the Triple-A baseball affiliate Salt Lake Bees.

The Jazz have been owned by Larry H. Miller Companies for 35 years. The Millers have retained a minority interest in the team.

Smith has been a corporate partner of the Utah Jazz for many years and was co-creator of the “5 For The Fight” jersey patch, the first philanthropic jersey patch in the history of North American professional sports. 5 For The Fight has raised over $25 million since the patch partnership was announced just three years ago.

Tech entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Atlassian, and venture capitalist, Ryan Sweeney, partner at Accel, have also been announced as minority owners.

Cannon-Brookes, based in Sydney, Australia, co-founded Atlassian in 2002 and has grown the company to more than 5,000 employees and 180,000 customers. He will be the first Australian to own a minority interest in an NBA franchise. Sweeney, one of the most successful investors in tech, joined Accel in 2009. Accel was the first investor in both Qualtrics and Atlassian and was an early investor in Facebook, Dropbox, GOAT, Slack, Spotify, and Squarespace, among many others.

“I don’t think there has ever been a more exciting time to be in Utah. Not only do we have a great team and organization with the Jazz, but the trajectory of the state as a whole is unmatched. There is so much opportunity here and success breeds success,” Ryan Smith, Qualtrics founder and owner of the Utah Jazz stated in a news release.

I grew up as a big Jazz fan, and that makes this day even more special. The Jazz have a phenomenal leadership team who will continue to guide the organization. We are all committed to building, and to building in Utah.

“I’m incredibly grateful to Gail Miller and her family for placing their trust in Ashley and me to carry forward their amazing legacy. It would be impossible to overstate the far-reaching impact Gail has had blessing countless lives,” said Smith. “In addition, I couldn’t be more excited to have Mike Cannon-Brookes and Ryan Sweeney, two long-time friends and business partners, on this journey with us. They are the best in the world at what they do and are all in on Utah.”

Smith plans to acquire The Zone Sports Network from the Miller family subject to the parties entering into a separate agreement and separate approvals.

“Ryan Smith is a forward-thinking, community-minded entrepreneur and business leader who will be a fantastic addition to our league,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated in a news release. “As a life-long fan of the Utah Jazz and more recently as one of their key marketing partners, Ryan has demonstrated his deep commitment to the Jazz and the Utah community and there’s no doubt he will bring that same level of dedication to the operation of the team."

We are also extraordinarily appreciative of Gail Miller, Greg Miller and the Miller family for 35 years of outstanding leadership and service and, on behalf of the entire NBA, thank them for always running a first-class organization in every way.

Ryan Smith now serves as the NBA Governor of the Utah Jazz and its affiliates, and he has final decision-making authority for all business and basketball operations related to the team and other assets included in this transaction.