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How the deal for Ryan Smith, David Blitzer to buy Real Salt Lake came together

David Blitzer and Ryan Smith pose for a photo at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy after purchasing Real Salt Lake.
David Blitzer, left, and Ryan Smith pose for a photo at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, after purchasing Real Salt Lake.
Provided by Real Salt Lake

New Jersey native David Blitzer graded himself as a “really good high school” soccer player who remained a “passionate” fan of the game even as he ran out of opportunities to play.

Living in England from 2001-11 served that passion, and when the now-52-year-old returned to the United States, he got acquainted with Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.

Even as he gained wealth and put money into ownership stakes in multiple soccer clubs abroad as well as the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, however, Blitzer never went through with buying an MLS team.

Even as opportunities came and the league grew massively, Blitzer said Thursday during a press conference that he was waiting for “the right” opportunity.

That opportunity came in recent months as Real Salt Lake became for sale, and it was formally announced this week that he and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith would become the owners, with a few others such as Jazz part owner and NBA legend Dwyane Wade also having minority stakes.

“This was clearly the market that I wanted to make an investment in,” Blitzer said, “but then it came to, I wanted to do this together with somebody who I just felt would be, frankly, the perfect partner, and luckily I was able to get together with Ryan Smith and his team and we came together over the last few months and decided that to partner in and do this and invest in Real Salt Lake would be an amazing experience.”

As for Smith, the 45-year-old said Thursday that he had interest in buying RSL when it became available in the summer of 2020, but then the opportunity to buy the Jazz soon followed and he took that instead in the fall of that year.

With some time under his belt, Smith felt it was a good opportunity to join Blitzer in purchasing the team (the two had gotten to know each other through their NBA involvement).

“Our love for what RSL brings to this community and the state of Utah has not wavered at all,” Smith said of him, his wife Ashley and his Jazz ownership group. “I just hope Utah understands the benefit we just got for Blitzer choosing to be here as someone who probably could have gone anywhere.”

Both shared that their vision for ownership goes beyond success on the field, that they want to make a positive impact in the community.

“Sports are about bringing people together, and doing that in a world where it seems like everything takes us apart,” Smith said. “We’re excited to have the RSL platform in the community to continue to build on that legacy of bringing people together.”

That said, Smith added, “When the opportunity came to do this, to do it with Blitz, we couldn’t be more excited for where this is going to go and we’re excited to invest and put a good product on the field and win. That’s what we’re about.”

The pair and Garber were queried on a number of topics Thursday. Some of the highlights:

  • Former owner Dell Loy Hansen was often criticized for investing in club infrastructure more than in player salaries. Both Blitzer and Smith were rather noncommittal when asked if they would invest more in player salaries.
  • The pair emphasized that they fully intend to bring a National Women’s Soccer League franchise back to the Beehive State. Hansen bought the franchise that became Utah Royals FC in 2017 but sold it in 2020.
  • Garber said MLS “was committed from the very beginning” of the sale process to make sure the franchise stayed in Utah.
  • Smith called RSL a “separate entity” from the Jazz, but at the same time, said “the synergistic opportunities” for the two franchises to work together on a variety of levels “are many.”