Ryan Smith still in running to buy RSL, but he could have competition

An international ownership group already involved in soccer recently met with Dell Loy Hansen, a source said.

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) In this Oct. 14, 2020, file photo, Real Salt Lake forward Corey Baird (10) fights Portland for possession as Real Salt Lake hosts the Portland Timbers. New Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith isn't out of the running as a buyer for Utah Soccer, a knowledgeable sources says, but an international owners group involved in soccer has shown some interest.

The new year is approaching quickly, and that is good news for a Real Salt Lake organization that’s in the middle of searching for new ownership.

Dell Loy Hansen has been trying to sell Utah Soccer Holdings since late August. The limited liability company consists of RSL, the Utah Royals and the Real Monarchs, plus Rio Tinto Stadium and the sprawling training facility in Herriman that also has a stadium.

So far, Hansen has been able to sell the Royals, which relocated to Kansas City. Part of the deal he made with the National Women’s Soccer League, however, gives the new ownership the option to bring the Royals back in 2023.

But Hansen’s had less luck finding a buyer for everything else under Utah Soccer. There have been several meetings and at least two potential ownership groups have toured the soccer facilities, but a deal hasn’t yet been struck.

Back in mid-September, now-Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith toured the RSL facilities, signifying his interest in buying the organization. But a meeting between him and Hansen did not go well. When he bought the Jazz, questions arose about whether Smith was still interested in RSL.

But Smith is still in the running, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Salt Lake Tribune. The source requested anonymity to discuss a private sales process.

Smith’s interest is further evidenced by the fact that he approached Gail Miller, former majority owner of the Jazz, about purchasing RSL and turning it into a joint venture. Miller wasn’t necessarily interested in that.

The process of buying a controlling interest in the Jazz went smoothly. So when he was asked recently if he would consider buying RSL even after buying his favorite NBA team, Smith’s response was, “I think that would be great,” so long as the sale process was as smooth as it was with the Jazz.

Other groups that have met with Hansen about buying Utah Soccer fell out of favor. Two of those, the source said, were Salt Lake City restaurateur Simon Shaner and the owners of Powdr Corp.

Shaner, CEO of Mountain West Brands, owns restaurants in Utah such as the Grub Steak Restaurant and El Chubasco. Powdr Corp. owns several ski resorts in the U.S., including Snowbird.

But Smith is not the only person seriously interested in buying Utah Soccer. An international ownership group has recently emerged, the source said, adding that the group is already involved in soccer and is looking to establish a presence in the United States. The group has met at least once with Hansen, the source said.

Major League Soccer will take over the sale process from Hansen if he can’t find a buyer before Jan. 8. At this point, that course of action seems probable. Furthermore, league commissioner Don Garber said earlier this month that the league is more likely than not to take over the process.

Garber also said the league has no plans to move RSL out of the Salt Lake City market.