Many Utah Jazz fans have wondered if a small market like Salt Lake City could maintain its NBA franchise if larger, more attractive cities made a push to move the team.
Gail Miller, owner/chairman of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, announced at a press conference at Vivint SmartHome Arena Monday that the group is more committed than ever to keeping the Jazz in Utah.
She announced the transfer of ownership of the Jazz and Vivint SmartHome Arena to a legacy trust, one that will continue to be overseen by the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies but will be dedicated to keeping the Jazz in Utah "for generations to come."
Miller said that there had been many chances to sell the team but any time they were asked, she said the answer always was: "The Jazz belong to Utah."
Here is the official press release from the Utah Jazz:
"Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, today announced ownership of the Utah Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena have been transferred into a Legacy Trust in order to keep the franchise in Utah for generations. This unprecedented action will help to ensure the Jazz are always a vital part of Utah and represent the state around the world.
“'As a family, we have always considered the Utah Jazz a community asset and it has been our privilege to serve as stewards of this team for more than 30 years,' said Miller. 'There have been many opportunities to sell and move the franchise, but from the day Larry and I purchased the Jazz our goal was to keep the team in Utah. The Legacy Trust will help to ensure this commitment is kept for generations to come.'
"With the ownership transfer to the Legacy Trust, the Miller family’s stewardship along with all management functions and operations of the Jazz, one of the most consistent and stable teams in professional sports, will remain intact. According to Miller, the Jazz will continue to have the financial resources to attract top talent and further its pursuit of becoming a championship-caliber team.
"While the Legacy Trust will be managed by current and future generations of the Miller family, the trust will not provide any material benefit to the family from the Jazz, and ownership of the franchise will be held collectively by the trust.
"The Legacy Trust is the capstone of a broader effort to position the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies and its holdings for long-term vitality and success. After a nationwide search, a 12-member board of directors consisting of independent business executives, company officials and family members was formed in 2015. Clark Whitworth, a leader in the companies for more than 28 years, was promoted to CEO.
“'As a family and company, we have always been committed to doing things the right way and working to achieve our mission of enriching lives and giving back,' said Miller. 'This trust and our new corporate structure will continue this important legacy in perpetuity and represents our commitment and deep love for the State of Utah.'
"The Jazz were founded as the 18th member of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in New Orleans in 1974 and relocated to Salt Lake City in 1979. Larry and Gail Miller purchased 50 percent of the franchise in May of 1985 to keep the team from leaving Utah after financial challenges resulted in the franchise being put up for sale. The following year, the Millers acquired the remaining 50 percent and have solely owned and operated the franchise since.
"On the court, the Jazz have the third-best record in the NBA over the last 30 years, having won eight division titles and two Western Conference championships along with 14 seasons of 50-plus wins. Away from the court, the Jazz are active in the local community and have assisted a multitude of organizations providing charitable donations, service and grants through Larry H. Miller Charities. The Utah Jazz also operate the Junior Jazz program, the largest and longest-running youth basketball league in the NBA, featuring more than 50,000 players and an additional 13,000 volunteers who take part annually across seven states.
"Larry and Gail Miller built the Vivint Smart Home Arena (originally the Delta Center), the Intermountain West’s premier sports and entertainment venue, which opened in 1991. The 19,911-seat facility hosts approximately 1.8 million guests and more than 100 sports and entertainment events annually. The arena is currently in the early stages of a $125 million renovation that is being solely financed by the Larry H. Miller Group. The majority of the construction will begin at the conclusion of the 2016-17 Jazz basketball season with anticipated completion by fall 2017."