by Daniel Olsen
Once a week, we will be highlighting an inductee of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame. This week’s inductee is Larry H. Miller.
In March, Larry H. Miller’s wife was featured as the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Inductee of the Week as a special part of Women’s History month. While that week focused on her achievements as an individual, it’s also important to focus on the other side of the story. While his wife was certainly a positive influence, Miller still had to display attributes that most people don’t have in order to keep the Utah Jazz in Utah. It’s time to talk about the businessman, the Jazz fan and the jersey that hangs in the rafters for the former Jazz owner.
Miller was born on April 26, 1944 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Little did people know, that little baby would one day grow up and become an entrepreneur over car dealerships, sports teams and even movie theaters. He wouldn’t be without adversity on his way to success, though. His parents divorced when he was just four years old. He also didn’t do so well in school as grades weren’t a priority to him. After graduating at West High, Miller only spent a few weeks in college before dropping out.
Larry the Car Guy
After marrying his high school sweetheart Gail, Miller spent a decade in and out of jobs in the automobile industry. It all paid off though once he renamed a dealership he opened Larry H. Miller Toyota in 1979. He helped drastically improve sales. The automotive industry was his claim to fame but would not ultimately be his biggest business venture.
Keeping the Jazz in Utah
Miller had to pull money together from several owners not only once but twice. He first pulled together $8 million to prevent the team from being moved to Miami, Florida in 1985. He then made further negotiations to keep the team from moving to Minnesota. Although the team struggled financially early on, Miller was persistent and eventually made plenty of money from the franchise. This was largely due to drafting two future Hall of Fame players in John Stockton and Karl Malone. For the better part of two decades, the Jazz were playoff contenders with this dynamic duo.
Other business ventures
There is a reason Miller’s net worth was half a billion dollars in his lifetime. In addition to cars and the Jazz, Miller seemed to have a business in nearly every market in Utah. Here is just a small list:
- Megaplex Theaters
- Salt Lake Bees
- Tour of Utah (bike race)
- Motorsports Park
After selling the Jazz to Ryan Smith, founder of Qualtrics, his wife now has a net worth of over $2 billion.
Remembering a Legacy
While Miller passed away in 2009 due to health complications with diabetes, his legacy continues throughout the state of Utah and remains a big part of the state’s history to this day. His autobiography, Driven, goes into detail about the life he lived. If it weren’t for Miller, Utah might be like other smaller states in the west. People with a variety of interests can find something to do in Utah. Outsiders may raise eyebrows at this but the fact that Utah is one of the fastest-growing states in the USA is largely due to what Miller started.