Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
The NBA Board of Governors approved tech mogul Ryan Smith and his wife, Ashley, as the new primary owners of the Utah Jazz on Friday, completing a $1.66 billion deal to purchase the Western Conference franchise.
The Smiths will take over stewardship of the organization from the Miller family, which maintained the Jazz since 1986.
“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 said in a statement. “As a lifelong 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.”
Smith’s group features Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and venture capitalist Ryan Sweeney, who the league also announced as minority shareholders.
Speaking with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Smith revealed he nearly made a bid for the Minnesota Timberwolves before Ashley reminded him of his Utah roots.
“She was putting her foot down,” Smith said. “She was like, ‘You know we’re Jazz fans, right? That’s what we do, and I’m not moving.’ She doesn’t put her foot down very often, but it was a nice reminder that I was kind of getting caught up in this other world because I liked the business side of it.”
The agreement includes a requirement not to relocate the franchise, which shouldn’t be a problem for Smith. He wants to see the team win a title in Salt Lake City.
“I feel like it’s a stewardship for the community of Utah,” Smith said. “I’ll be just straight-up—I mean, I don’t plan on selling it, so out of all the business ventures I’ve got, this is not the greatest one. You have to do this because you’re passionate and you want to help the community and do good. We want to win and do good here in Utah.”
Smith enters the fold at a time when the Jazz are seeing their window to contend open wide, with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanovic. Utah has appeared in four consecutive postseasons but has yet to advance past the second round.
The new management group seeks to raise the bar of success as their young stars continue to develop.
“Adam Silver said some people get the rare, rare opportunity to get a piece or even an entire NBA team,” Smith said. “He said, ‘But no one, no one gets their team.’ For me to be in a spot here where we get to start this new chapter with our team is why this is so unique, but it’s also daunting, right?”