Utah Jazz: Questions for Greg Miller

Published: Sunday, Feb. 1 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

A troubled economy, player injuries, an ailing father: It's been an interesting year for Greg Miller, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. The Deseret News' Jody Genessy sat down with Miller prior to last week's Jazz-Spurs game to see how the new CEO is settling in.

Question: What do you foresee the biggest challenge being for the Jazz in the next one to five years?

Answer: Well, the biggest challenge is going to be finding ways to generate enough revenue to pay as much money as we can — you know, just to pay up to the cap or probably up to the luxury tax threshold, so that we can put the most competitive team on the floor, and spreading that load over the broadest footings possible so that no one entity or one segment of the market has to bear the brunt of that. Obviously the primary channels of revenue are ticket sales, sponsorship, TV revenue and sponsorship advertising. As you know the salary cap and the luxury tax threshold increase every year. Salaries never really go down, and so we're continually looking for new revenue streams or looking for ways to maximize our existing revenues without pricing ourselves out of the market, and it's a very delicate balance. So that's without question the biggest challenge that we're going to have. As long as this community is willing to support us to the level that they have it's going to work out. I've got to think at some point we're going to cross a line where there's enough pushback from the market and from our fans that they say, 'Hey we helped you as much as we could, but we just can't go that far.' And I hope we never have to push it that hard and I hope we never find ourselves in (those) circumstances. But as long as the community is willing — if we can just get a few more dollars as needed from the different revenue streams — then it should work itself out. So, the trick is knowing where to draw those lines and being able to identify new revenue streams year after year after year. And examples of that would be the Lexus Club — that's manufactured revenue — the Executive Club up on the suite level on Level 4 is an example of that. We've got Bunker Suites over here that are examples of that. There's a lot of them.

Luckily, we've got a lot of really good people in the Jazz organization that are very creative and hard working that can dream it up and then go make it happen.

As long as we all work together and we find a way to get the bills paid it'll be all right. But that is without question the biggest challenge.

Question: Will it be tough if the car dealerships or movie theaters or restaurants lose money to still keep the team going as it is right now?

Answer: Undoubtedly, it would. Fortunately, the way we've set up our organization it's mostly where each entity within our organization carries its own weight. They all pay their own bills. Just like any organization, we've got strengths and weaknesses. We're always looking for ways to improve our operation and strengthen the weak operations, and occasionally we'll have to subsidize one of the weaker operations from the profit of the healthy operations. But over time I think it would be accurate to say that each entity within the organization has stood on its own. And so it would only be an issue if the dealerships really started losing money in the aggregate. Then that would create a hole — it would be a tidal wave of issues and obviously the impact on the Jazz would be a huge concern but there would be enough other big issues out there that would in my mind be comparable to the Jazz that we just don't even want to go there. And so to that end we've done everything we can to shore up our businesses and get our expenses in line and get our house in order so that we don't have to ever go there.

Question: Your dad talked about two absolutes: (1) that the Jazz would not be a luxury-tax payer, and (2) that Phil Johnson would succeed Jerry Sloan as head coach. Do you hold those same philosophies?

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