SANDY — Real Salt Lake is under new management — temporarily.
Major League Soccer announced Wednesday that John Kimball, a founding executive with the club who currently works as president of Vivint Smart Home Arena, will return to RSL as interim president of Utah Soccer.
With his new caretaker role, Kimball will take a temporary leave of absence from the Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment Group to have "exclusive management responsibility and control of operations for the organization." Kimball will report directly to MLS commissioner Don Garber in his assignment during the ownership transition period and will serve as the club’s representative on the MLS board of governors.
"John Kimball is an experienced sports executive who brings extraordinary leadership and stability to the organization," Garber said in a news release from the league. "John was instrumental in the launch of Real Salt Lake and has a deep connection to the local soccer community.
"We thank the Miller family and Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO Steve Starks for their support during this important transition period."
MLS announced the move Wednesday morning. Nearly two hours later, Real Salt Lake and Utah Soccer confirmed the move.
"We care deeply about the success of Utah Soccer both in the short term and in the long term and are happy to offer our support," said Steve Starks, chief executive officer of the Miller group that owns and operates the Utah Jazz, in RSL's team release. "We have committed to Mr. Hansen and the leagues our willingness to be helpful during this transition."
"John is a trusted executive and strong leader in our industry," added Jim Olson, president of the Miller group. "Given his previous experience working for Real Salt Lake, we are pleased to share his talents and expertise to ensure a successful soccer season here in Utah."
A Utah native who attended both the University of Utah and BYU, Kimball returns to the club after leaving the organization in 2013 — the same year that Dell Loy Hansen took over sole ownership of the club. He worked briefly in media before joining the Miller group in 2015, adding to an impressive legacy of more than 25 years in sports and entertainment.
He joined the Utah Jazz organization as director of sales in 2015 shortly before being promoted to vice president of corporate sponsorships, according to Kimball's LinkedIn page. In addition to his senior VP role, Kimball served as managing director of the Tour of Utah, cycling's annual stage race that winds through the Beehive State every summer.
The move comes shortly after Hansen announced his intent to sell Utah Soccer Holdings, the company that owns Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals FC of the National Women’s Soccer League, and Real Monarchs of the second-division USL Championship, as well as other properties related to the soccer organizations — like Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy and Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman. Hansen is alleged to have made several disparaging and racially insensitive remarks during his tenure, allegations that are currently under investigation by the league through high-profile law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP of New York City.
The investigation will also oversee recent allegations into misconduct and the culture surrounding RSL under the owner and chief business officer Andy Carroll, who took a leave of absence Tuesday as MLS launched an investigation into reports of misogynistic comments and conduct during his time with the club.
The Miller group is one of several groups reported to have interest in acquiring parts or all of Utah Soccer. Others who have publicly expressed interest include Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith, Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, and NFL star JJ Watt, whose wife Kealia (Ohai) is an Alta High graduate and currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL.