Our devotion to the Utah Jazz is stronger than ever. The legacy trust will ensure that the team remains in and benefits Utah. Our goal is and always has been to win an NBA championship. Utah would not be the same without the Utah Jazz. —Gail Miller
SALT LAKE CITY — On a spring day in 1985, Gail and Larry Miller were driving down I-15 when the silence between the couple was suddenly interrupted.
Larry had something to say about the Utah Jazz — a then-financially struggling franchise that the young couple had never actually watched play in person — and it couldn’t wait.
“Larry had been quiet for quite a while,” Gail Miller recalled, “and all of a sudden he blurted out, ‘Gail, the Jazz can’t leave Utah! We have to do everything we can to keep them here.’”
Three-plus decades later after the Millers scraped up money to buy the franchise, Gail Miller honored her late husband’s desire by doing something that will ensure the Jazz remain in Utah for a long, long time.
On Monday afternoon, with four generations represented on the dais, Miller announced that she has transferred ownership of the Utah Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena to a legacy trust that will be overseen by her family and posterity.
This trust could help the Millers avoid paying estate taxes when Gail Miller passes away, but it will ensure that the team, the family’s car dealerships and company headquarters remain in Utah.
The trust is the first of its type in the NBA.
“Our devotion to the Utah Jazz is stronger than ever,” Miller said. “The legacy trust will ensure that the team remains in and benefits Utah. Our goal is and always has been to win an NBA championship. Utah would not be the same without the Utah Jazz.”
If this move doesn’t give Jazz fans nervous about the Millers being tempted to cash in on their billion-dollar asset, nothing will.
Sorry, Seattle and Las Vegas.
“We knew this would finally put to rest the questions and speculation about the team being sold that have existed for a very long time,” son Steve Miller said. “The Jazz are not our family’s team. They are a community asset. They are the Utah Jazz.”
Greg Miller, the oldest Miller offspring and former Jazz CEO who represents the Jazz on the NBA’s Board of Governors, pointed out that this essentially guarantees “perpetual ownership,” which is a rarity in the sports world.
"It’s a privilege to be stewards of such a remarkable community resource,” he said.
Gail Miller said this has been a continuation of the plan for the future for an organization that underwent a reorganization process two years ago with the appointment of a Board of Directors and is undergoing a $125 million arena renovation project. In her estimation, this is another way the Millers are doing things “the right way” in terms of helping the business and the community.
"We’ve had many opportunities to sell the franchise for a huge profit. When you buy it for $22 million and it goes up in price as it has, it could be tempting," Gail Miller said. "But we've been clear from the beginning that our mission is to ensure that the Utah Jazz stay in Utah."
Gail Miller remains the trustee of the ownership trust. The organization didn’t give details on how it will function or who will have which duties. The process took about one and a half years to finalize.
When Miller passes away, the trust will be staffed by a Board of Managers. This board will be composed of Miller family members, including children Greg, Steve, Brian and Karen, and oldest grandson Zane.
According to the Jazz, the trust will not provide any material benefit to the family from the NBA team. Of course, family members who work for the organization will still draw a salary from within the trust funds.
Miller smiled when asked what she thought Larry might say about the trust.
“I’m hoping he’d say, ‘Good job, Gail,’” she said. “He was always planning for the future. He always wanted to make sure things were done the way they should be done, so I’m confident he would feel good about it.”
Miller said this takes a weight off of her shoulders.
“It gives me a peace of mind,” she said, “knowing that it’s something that can perpetuate and be cared for and that the money will be there to make it happen that now we can concentrate on winning that championship and not worry about having to answer, ‘Are they going to stay or are they going to go?’”
Miller showcased an autographed basketball that her family was given before a Jazz game in 1985 when it was announced that the Millers had purchased half of the franchise, ensuring that the team would stay in Utah.
“It symbolizes hope, sacrifice, commitment, the American dream and most notably our love for the greatest community,” Miller said of the basketball. “We view the legacy trust literally and figuratively as passing the ball and all it stands for to future family members, fans, employees and community, many of whom we will never meet.”
The announcement was received with great approval from Jazz fans on social media, many of whom expressed their gratitude to the Millers for their devotion to Utah.
"Larry was once asked how he wanted to be remembered after he was gone. He said, as he choked up, 'I want to be remembered as a man who loved Utah,'" Gail Miller recalled.
"I believe this sentiment runs through our entire family. It’s my hope that when the community thinks of our family today, tomorrow and many years from now, they will think of us as a family who loves Utah."
Thanks to this trust, those current and future generation fans will still have a Jazz team to root for when they think of the Millers.