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Utah Jazz appoint new president to oversee business operations

Jim Olson, who will also lead Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment, is a 25-year veteran of the team’s parent company. 

Jim Olson, right, speaks to reporters with Steve Starks, chief executive officer of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, left, during an announcement that Olson has been appointed as president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.
Jim Olson, right, speaks to reporters with Steve Starks, chief executive officer of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, left, during an announcement that Olson has been appointed as president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO Steve Starks announced Friday that Jim Olson has been named the new president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment.

Olson, who joined the organization in 1994, will be charged with leading the team’s “day-to-day business operations” and will oversee properties like its Megaplex Theatres, Vivint Smart Home Area and the Salt Lake Bees.

“We intend to be the best arena and provide the best experience of any arena or stadium in the country,” Olson said of his agenda as president, which will focus on improving the fan experience both in and out of the team’s arena.

He’ll take over for Starks, who was elevated from Olson’s new role to his current position in August. Don Stirling, Jazz executive vice president, filled the role in the interim. Starks said the search was internal.

“We wanted to get it right,” Starks said. “We took our time; we were thorough. But it’s nice to not have a distraction.”

Olson’s most recent work came as executive vice president of Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment and as president of Vivint Arena. Prior, he was chief operating officer of Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment for three years; senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Jazz for eight years; and vice president of ticket sales for the Jazz for four years, plus other duties before that. He started in the team’s ticket office — a job he said he cherished — after working at the University of Utah’s ticket office as a teenager.

“My goal was absolutely to work in sports,” he said, “so to think all these years later, they haven’t gotten rid of me yet.”

Olson didn’t offer specifics about forthcoming changes, but did mention the general areas of safety, food, accessibility and cleanliness.

“He has articulated a compelling long-term strategy to give back to the community, constantly innovate, improve the fan experience and win an NBA championship,” Larry H. Miller Group owner Gail Miller said in a press release. “He is an integral part of our team as we manage for the future.”

Olson, a University of Utah communications graduate, inherits a strong business foundation on which to build — especially in relation to the Jazz. The team has sold out 74 consecutive home games, including every game last season — a feat accomplished only four times prior during the team’s 40-year run in Utah. The Jazz, per the team’s press release, also notched the third-highest local TV ratings among NBA teams last season.

“I think about the point guard that had to replace John Stockton,” Olson said of replacing Starks. “You didn’t want to be that guy. Maybe you wanted to be the guy that replaced the guy that replaced John Stockton.”

Nevertheless, he said he’s prepared for the pressure of the job, which he views as fuel for positive outcomes. Even though, by his own admission, he’s different from Starks.

“Steve and I are different in some ways, but at the same time, I’ve learned a lot from his leadership,” Olson said. “I will absolutely follow many of the great things he established within our organization. But at the same time, I have a little bit of a different personality, and hopefully, if it’s right, it might find its way into a few of the nooks and crannies of this place.”