MLS taps Vivint Arena exec John Kimball as interim president to oversee RSL and other Utah Soccer holdings

FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2014 file photo, members of the U.S. Women's National team warm up during practice at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Pro soccer returns to the U.S. next month when the National Women's Soccer League starts a 25-game tournament in a pair of stadiums in Utah that will be kept clear of fans to protect players from the coronavirus. Players from the nine teams will train and live at two Salt Lake City-area hotels, the league announced Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Utah Soccer, the holding company that includes Real Salt Lake, the Utah Royals, Real Monarchs and team facilities, will have a familiar face leading it for at least the short term.

John Kimball has been named the interim president of Utah Soccer, effective immediately, Major League Soccer announced Wednesday. Kimball is one of the founding executives of RSL. He replaces chief business officer Andy Carroll, who went on a leave of absence after reports of sexism and misconduct in the RSL front office surfaced.

“John Kimball is an experienced sports executive who brings extraordinary leadership and stability to the organization,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “John was instrumental in the launch of Real Salt Lake and has a deep connection to the local soccer community.”

Some former RSL players and executives gave public support for Kimball. Nick Rimando tweeted, “You’re in good hands RSL. J. Kimball the perfect man to get us back on track. History with the club, city, and fans.”

Jamie Watson, who was drafted by RSL in 2005, spoke highly of Kimball.

“John was there back in 2005 when I was drafted and his attention to detail, business acumen & his ability to connect with every person makes him a wonderfully capable person for the [role]!,” Watson wrote on Twitter.

Trey Fitz-Gerald, a longtime RSL executive who left in the club in 2018, tweeted just one word in response to the Kimball news: “Excellent,” in all caps.

In a joint statement, the Miller family and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment said they are “confident that the teams will thrive under Mr. Kimball’s revered and esteemed leadership.”

“We care deeply about the success of Utah Soccer both in the short term and in the long term and are happy to offer our support,” Steve Starks, Chief Executive Officer of Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, said in a statement. “We have committed to Mr. Hansen and the leagues our willingness to be helpful during this transition.”

Kimball’s insertion comes after a week of turmoil in the the RSL organization. Owner Dell Loy Hansen decided to sell Utah Soccer after numerous allegations of him saying racist comments surfaced. He had taken a leave of absence while MLS and the National Women’s Soccer League investigated the allegations, and he announced his intention to sell just two days later.

Kimball’s current role is with the Larry H. Miller group as president of Vivint Arena, where the Utah Jazz play their home games. Kimball will take a temporary leave from that role to have “exclusive management responsibility and control of operations” for Utah Soccer and report directly to Garber.

The move could be an indication that the group that owns the Jazz and Salt Lake Bees has serious interest in becoming the next owner of Utah Soccer. Sources told The Salt Lake Tribune last week that LHM expressed interest in buying RSL and its affiliates, not long after Hansen drew ire for his comments on a radio show he owned where he criticized RSL players for standing with other sports leagues that didn’t play scheduled games to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Over the weekend, allegations of sexism and workplace misconduct surfaced about Carroll, pointing to his involvement in what’s been called a “toxic” work environment under his leadership. MLS and the NWSL launched investigations into Carroll as well, leading him to take a leave of absence while probes run their course.

Hansen contacted the LHM group to see of Kimball would be interested in helping Utah Soccer on a short term basis, per a report in The Athletic. The report also states LHM is not putting any finances into the organization and Hansen will continue to cover costs until he sells the team.

Kimball joined RSL as senior vice president of business operations in 2003 and departed the organization in 2013. He joined LHM in 2015.