Ryan Smith, owner of Utah Jazz: CNBC interview


Gail Miller, owner and president of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies and Utah Jazz, today announced that it has entered into definitive agreements to sell a controlling stake in Utah Jazz and other sports to the entrepreneur technology Ryan Smith.
Melissa Majchrzak | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
Subscribe to CNBC Pro at Read the full Q&A with Qualtrics CEO and new owner of Utah Jazz, Ryan Smith.
Ryan Smith, the new owner of Utah Jazz, says he still doesn’t know what kind of owner he’s going to become, but he already knows his goal will be to improve the experience for fans and players.

Smith, 42, officially entered the fraternity of sports owners after the National Basketball Association approved his $ 1.6 billion purchase from Jazz on Friday. Qualtrics’ co-founder and CEO will take final decision-making for the team’s business and basketball operations.

The new ownership group also adds Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and Ryan Sweeney of venture capital firm Accel as minority partners.

In an interview with CNBC Pro’s “A View from the Top,” Smith said he didn’t plan on staying behind the scenes. Yet unlike other NBA owners, running the Jazz won’t be his full-time job. Qualtrics is breaking away from SAP early next year, less than two years after the German software giant acquired the company. Smith says he expects it to be “a big company.”

“I think I’ll be practical,” Smith told CNBC’s Alex Sherman. “But we have phenomenal leadership. We have Dennis Lindsey, a world-class GM, and Quin Snyder, who is one of the best coaches in the league. There are owners who are all they do full time. And it’s not me. . I’m still very, very involved with Qualtrics. ”

Prior to his purchase of the Jazz, Smith said he considered purchasing several NBA franchises, including the Minnesota Timberwolves. Discussions among sports bankers familiar with the process suggest that Timberwolves owner Glenn Taylor is considering keeping the team for the time being.

“There are a few minority pieces that are still out there,” Smith said of the smaller NBA team ownership issues. “You will see them coming. ”

Smith said he spoke with other NBA owners with tech backgrounds before making the purchase, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO. The two are among the most visible team owners at NBA games. Like Cuban and Ballmer, Smith said he plans to continue sitting on the pitch.

“I had a unique opinion because I’ve spoken to Mark five times, or a few times, over the years,” Smith said. “And I’ve already gotten to know a lot of other owners in the league just because that’s where my passion has been. But they gave me different advice. No one has ever said in particular that this is how you should do it. . Everyone has their own style. ”

Smith said he believes his knowledge of basketball will help Jazz better align with a league focused on technology and social media.

“I understand basketball,” he said. “I get basketball. I play basketball three days a week. There is the basketball side and the commercial side. Each is equally interesting to me. One from the point of view of experience and one of understanding. ”

Asked what jazz fans can expect from his property, Smith replied, “They will see it. They are already seeing it. They know me – a lot of them do. ”

“All I do is change seats,” Smith said of the seats on the court next to former owner Gail Miller. “But I have to do the payroll now. ”

Read it full CNBC Pro interview with Ryan Smith.

WATCH: Here’s what inspired Ryan Smith to own Utah Jazz


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