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Many Utah Jazz fans not certain about new owner, but still excited

(Ryan Smith, left, playing basketball with Qualtrics employees at their facility in Orem. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Feb. 2018)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Jazz fans say they’re excited and optimistic about the team’s future owner. Ryan and Ashley Smith are taking over and even though many fans say they don’t really know much about them, they are excited. 

So, who are they?

Ryan Smith has been a rising star in the business world for the past several years.  He founded Qualtrics with his brother in 2002, and, according to the company’s website, now serves 75 percent of all Fortune 100 companies, along with 99 of the top 100 business schools.

In 2013, Smith was named one of Forbes’ “America’s Most Promising CEOs under 35,” and in 2016 was listed as one of Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40.”  In 2018, Qualtrics was sold to SAP for $8 billion, and Smith stayed on as CEO.  Fortune Magazine says estimates the founders’ share of that sale was around $3 billion, and that Smith’s personal net worth is around $1.3 billion.

However, Smith wanted to make it clear that he is and always will be a Utah Jazz fan, calling the team “a gift to this whole community.”

He says, “I grew up watching the Jazz. This is the team I’ve cheered for. I played Junior Jazz — like, I dreamed of playing for the Jazz but that didn’t work out.”

Smith and the Jazz partnered in 2017 to promote “5 For The Fight,” where people can donate five dollars for cancer research.  The promotion has raised over $25 million dollars in the past three years.

Ashley Smith is an entrepreneur, herself.  She founded Smash Dance Academy in Orem in 2006 and is still one of their instructors.

“For our little family, the Jazz has been about love.  It’s about spending time together.  It’s about sharing experiences, sharing victories or losses,” she says.

Fans who spoke with KSL say they were shocked to hear the team was sold, but they’re thrilled the Jazz will stay in Utah.  Some say Smith will bring “young blood” to the table, and his money could reinvigorate the team.

One fan says, “Young blood is going to want to win.  They’re going to want to bring in some high-quality players.”

Other fans like The Break Sports Grill owner Ryan Oliver are comparing the Smiths to Mark Cuban, who bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000.  Oliver says the difference is that the Mavs were a bad team before Cuban took over, while he believes the Jazz have more potential to become a championship team.

Oliver says, “We’re a piece or two away.  We’re very close with the core that we’ve got.  If you throw in another key free agent, or two, you’re in the mix.  I think it’s great.”