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Group including David Blitzer, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith reaches deal to buy Real Salt Lake

The group has reportedly agreed to buy the franchise for close to $400 million.

(Julio Cortez | AP) David Blitzer, center, co-owner of the New Jersey Devils, in 2017.

David Blitzer, the billionaire executive who is part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith have reached a deal to purchase Real Salt Lake. The deal includes Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, and the Zions Bank Training Center and RSL Academy in Herriman.

Major League Soccer announced the deal Tuesday, ending an ownership search that lasted more than a year. Sports business website Sportico first reported the news Wednesday morning, including that the purchase price for RSL is close to $400 million.

“The combination of David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s SEG form a dream partnership for Real Salt Lake,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a news release. “David and Ryan’s teams have become synonymous with how athletics and community intersect, as they have demonstrated leading world-class organizations outside of professional soccer.

“Both understand the tremendous value that sports teams bring to a community, and they are deeply committed to Utah. This is a proven ownership group that brings resources and experience to elevate every aspect of the RSL organization.”

Smith’s involvement comes through SEG, the investment company he leads. Smith was at one point in the process reportedly interested in buying the team himself.

“My wife Ashley and I are 100% committed to the state of Utah,” Smith said in the release. “As my partners and I looked to expand SEG, it was clear that Real Salt Lake is an amazing asset for Utah, exemplifies the way we want to invest and be involved here, and David Blitzer is the perfect partner.”

Blitzer’s group was first reported last November to be nearing a deal to buy RSL, which has been for sale since September of 2020.

“My family and I are thrilled to partner with Ryan Smith and his SEG team on the acquisition of Real Salt Lake,” Blitzer said in the release. “Ryan’s track record with Qualtrics as a technology innovator and leader in the state of Utah made his SEG group the ideal partner. Together, we look forward to leveraging our experiences to take Real Salt Lake to even greater heights.”

RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen decided to put the franchise up for sale after receiving backlash for how he handled the Major League Soccer team’s decision to not play a game out of protest of a police shooting, and later being accused of making racist comments and contributing to a toxic workplace environment.

While the team was looking for a new owner, it missed the playoffs in 2020 and advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2021. The organization also hired Pablo Mastroeni as its permanent head coach last month.

The franchise also lost its National Women’s Soccer League team, the Utah Royals FC, during that time. That club was sold and moved to Kansas City, but the sale included an option for the new RSL owner to start a new team under the Royals name in 2023.

Blitzer has stakes in various sports leagues around the world, including the NBA, NHL and international soccer. His company, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, owns the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. He’s also involved in a group that has financial stakes in several soccer teams overseas, including Crystal Palace of the Premier League.

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