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Businessman, entrepreneur, and certainly a man who loved sports, Larry H. Miller, has died. He passed away Friday afternoon from complications related to type 2 diabetes. He was 64 years old.
Miller had been in poor health for some time, suffering a heart attack and kidney failure in June and then having both of his legs amputated just below the knee a couple of weeks ago.
On Thursday, Feb. 12, Miller received news that he was suffering from calciphylaxis, a rare condition where calcium gets deposited in blood vessels, keeping tissue from getting oxygen, which leads to tissue death. It is usually found in patients suffering from kidney disease and parathyroid problems. At that point, doctors told him he had a matter of days to live.
At a press conference, his physician, Dr. Bill Dunson said, "He had the most incredible health challenges over the last 6 months. I think a lot of that, over the last 30 years of having diabetes, built up until finally, over the last 6 months, the physical part of him finally just gave out. I don't think the mental or the spiritual part ever gave out of Larry Miller."
Prior to learning of this condition, his family says Miller fully expected to recover from his recent health problems and move on. In fact, they say he decided to have his legs amputated in order to improve his quality of life.
Dunson also said Miller has been close to death on multiple occasions over the last 6 months.
The last time Miller was seen in public was when he was inducted into the Utah Auto Dealer's Hall of Fame.
Miller is survived by his wife, Karen Gail Saxton Miller, their four sons and one daughter, 21 grandchildren, and one great grandchild. He valued his family as his greatest accomplishment.
Of his death, Miller's son Steve said, "Just like everything else he's done, he scripted it perfectly, and the outcome is as beautiful as it could be. He is in a better place. We are grateful for the time that we've had with him."
Miller was born in Salt Lake City in 1944 and went on to become one of Utah's most successful and influential entrepreneurs. Over the years, he amassed more than 80 businesses and properties.
A public service will be held for Miller, though details of when and where have not been decided at this time.
Miller loved racing cars and was an outstanding fast-pitch softball player. From the early 60s to the mid-80s he was active in both.
He turned his attention to his love for cars and racing when he built Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele.
Miller also purchased the Salt Lake Bees baseball team, and he is credited for saving the Jazz from leaving Utah back in the mid 1980s. In 1985, he bought a 50 percent share of the Jazz for $8 million; a year later, he purchased the remaining 50 percent for $14 million.
He later built the Delta Center, now EnergySolutions Arena. Friday night the flag outside the arena was lowered to half-staff.
Larry H. Miller Group of businesses
Miller has had an impact in Utah more than most people realize, not only in the sports world, but in many aspects in the community -- from his 39 car dealerships, to restaurants, to movie theaters.
In 1966, he became a parts manager for a Utah auto dealer. He moved to Denver in 1970 and for the next 9 years he managed as many as 5 Toyota dealerships.
In 1979, he came back to Salt Lake and opened Larry H. Miller Toyota. He would eventually acquire 39 dealerships in several western states.
A press release from the Larry Miller Group said, "Leaving behind a profound professional and personal legacy, the entities Miller created have had a significant and lasting impact on the communities in which he did business, and the more than 7,000 individuals he employed."
His wife Gail said, "It's interesting to look at the strength he had, the vision he had, the character he had, the desire to just do good things. And he wore himself out doing it."
His family has said they don't want things to change in the way Miller's businesses are run. Gail said, "We hope it won't change. We're dedicated to carrying out his legacy. I was just thinking, one of my favorite things about Larry is there were no barriers. He treated everyone the same. He didn't see color, he didn't see race, he didn't see rich, he didn't see poor. He loved people and that was a hallmark of his character. And I think that will live on."
Contribution to the community
Miller's son Greg says his father didn't want his legacy to be about his commercial ventures, but rather in the things he did to create opportunities for others.
"He felt that both of those things [job opportunities and higher education] would create opportunities for people, once they went into those experiences, to reach out and hopefully have their turn to make life better for others," he said.
Miller coined the phrase "Go about doing good until there is too much good in the world."
He established the Larry H. Miller Charities, which was funded by fundraising events and through contributions from his various businesses and from employees. Through that cause, Miller donated millions of dollars to the community.
Miller and his wife Gail have given out 300 college scholarships a year.
"Larry and Gail have always stressed the importance of giving back to the communities in which we do business. Our customers have supported us and it is important that we show our appreciation by helping those in need," said Greg Miller, eldest son and CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. "Larry felt that his legacy isn't in business as much as it was in creating opportunities for good jobs and higher education," he said.
According to a press release issued by the Larry H. Miller Group, he and his wife donated millions of dollars to Utah-based colleges and universities for campus improvements such as the state-of-the-art softball and baseball complexes at BYU.
The Larry H. Miller Campus of the Salt Lake Community College, was completed in fall 2001 and includes the Larry H. Miller Entrepreneurship Training Center and The Larry and Gail Miller Public Safety Education & Training Center.
His commercials included the tag line, "After all, you know this guy." And with his larger-than-life public persona, many Utahns felt as if that were true. Hundreds of Utahns, both those who knew him personally and those who knew him only as a public figure, are leaving their condolences on KSL.com.
Timeline of health failings
- June 10 Miller was hospitalized with "complications from diabetes." We later learned he had suffered a heart attack and kidney failure.
- July 16, Miller stepped down as CEO of the Larry H. Miller group of companies, turning those responsibilities over to his son, Greg.
- January 23, he had his legs amputated below the knee
- February 12, Miller received news that he was suffering from calciphylaxis and had just days to live.