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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Utah Jazz, Vivint Arena ownership transferred to perpetual legacy trust

By Andy Larsen  |  Posted Jan 23rd, 2017 @ 2:56pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz will stay in Utah following an announcement made by the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies Monday.

Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, announced that she has transferred her ownership of the Utah Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena into a legacy trust owned by the Miller family. Miller said the "unprecedented" news will allow the Jazz to stay a permanent fixture in Utah.

"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," Miller said.

Steve Miller, a member of the Board of Directors, said the trust "finally put to rest the questions and speculation about the team being sold." He added that the Jazz are not his family's team, but a "community asset."

Greg Miller, also a member of the Board of Directors and former CEO, said the trust will be the closest thing to "perpetual ownership."

The Miller family obtained permission from the NBA to transfer ownership to a legacy fund that will be managed by Gail Miller acting as trustee. Following Gail, a six-member board of managers will assume the role of trustee. Those six members will be all be Miller family members, to be chosen in a process outlined in the trust's founding documents.

That board of managers would then vote on those team decisions that would normally go to ownership. For some votes, a majority would be required, for bigger decisions, a supermajority is required.

Miller said the Jazz are the first team the NBA has allowed to set up a legacy trust to keep a team. "To the best of my knowledge, this is unprecedented," said Dennis Haslam, who worked with the NBA in order to get the deal done. The negotiations and clarifications working with the league took over 12 months, according to Haslam.

"This has the potential to last hundreds of years, maybe longer," Haslam said. "The profit stays within the trust. The profit that stays within the trust will be used as retained earnings, for expansion, for player salaries, or other operations. There could be a time period where the Jazz aren't profitable, so we'll stockpile cash. This trust will be well-supported financially, and will be able to survive into the future for generations and generations."

Transferring the team and its assets into a trust also provides financial benefits for the Millers from a tax point of view. In particular, because the team is owned by the family as a whole, tax won't have to be paid if a family member dies.

Gail Miller called the legacy trust a "capstone" to her family's efforts to keep the Jazz in Utah. The legacy trust will provide financial stability to the organization for the foreseeable future as the goal remains to win multiple NBA titles. Additionally, the trust will not provide any "material benefit to the family from the Jazz."

Miller said there have been many offers over the years to sell the organization, but that "from the day Larry and I purchased the Jazz our goal was to keep the team in Utah."

"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," she said. "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 Millers purchased the Jazz in May 1985, buying 50 percent of the franchise. The following year, the Millers bought the company outright and have remained the sole owners since that time. Since Larry's death, Gail has been the owner and chairman of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.

Contributing: Josh Furlong

Andy Larsen
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