NBA 2020-21: Months before he accepted to buy the Utah Jazz for $1.66 billion, Ryan Smith was officially approved as owner by the NBA’s board of directors Friday, said he was “really close” to making a bid to buy the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to Tim MacMahon.
Smith is the co-founder of the Utah-based tech firm Qualtrics. He had numerous discussions with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor last winter.
Smith was seriously considering taking the next step until his wife, Ashley, asserted her complaint.
“With my wife, something wasn’t right. She was putting her foot down,” Smith told ESPN. “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.”
Part of the deal calls for the team to stay in Utah, which was never a question for Smith. He has been a lifelong Jazz fan whose courtside seats in recent seasons have been next to Greg Miller, Gail’s son and the franchise’s former CEO, and his wife, Heidi.
Adam Silver on Ryan Smith
“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.”
Sources: Among items NBA Board of Governors are expected to approve in meeting this afternoon: Ryan Smith’s purchase of Utah Jazz, expanding active rosters to 15 on game nights, permanently adopting coaching challenge and amending several trade rules.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 17, 2020
“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?”
It is said that Smith picked the brain of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a likewise enthusiastic basketball fan who made billions in the tech world before buying an NBA franchise at a comparatively young age.
“I’m upset after talking to him,” Cuban wrote in a reply to ESPN. “He will be a great owner for Jazz fans, which I find unfortunate. 🙂”
Smith’s sponsored the “5 for the Fight” patriotic jersey patch for the Jazz. It raised more than $25 million for cancer research.
“I feel that responsibility of that stewardship,” said Smith, who still operates as Qualtrics’ CEO after the company sold for a reported $8 billion. “So when you say, ‘Is this a hobby or is it a business?’ I really don’t know how to answer that, because I feel like it’s a stewardship for the community of Utah.”
“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. I think the Millers have shown that, and if I can just step into their shoes, it’s a perfect handoff. I’m bullish on Utah.”