Friday, February 20, 2009

Utahns Shelve Political Differences To Mourn The Passing Of Utah Jazz Owner, Enterpreneur, And Philanthropist Larry Miller At The Age Of 64

After a couple of days of stormy contention over the fate of a Utah legislator, Utahns abruptly closed ranks and began mourning the sudden death of one of the most genuinely popular figures in the state. Larry Miller, who was an all-round enterpreneur, philanthropist, but who reached his greatest prominence as the owner of the Utah Jazz, passed away on February 20th, 2009 at the age of 64 as a result of complications related to type 2 diabetes. The official press release from Larry H. Miller Group is posted HERE. Primary media stories from KSL Channel 5, the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, KUTV Channel 2, and KTVX Channel 4.

Viewing and funeral arrangements now posted HERE.

Video Courtesy of

Miller has been in poor health for some time, suffering a heart attack and kidney failure in June 2008 and then having both his legs amputated just below the knee a couple of weeks ago. At the time, Miller expected to make a full recovery. But on February 12th, Miller learned that he was suffering from calciphylaxis, a rare condition where calcium gets deposited in blood vessels, keeping tissue from getting oxygen, which leads to tissue death. It is usually found in patients suffering from kidney disease and parathyroid problems, and is irreversible and fatal. At that point, doctors told him he had a matter of days to live, unless he chose to undergo dialysis, which would have prolonged his life by several months. However, Miller decided he did not want to linger and put his wife and family through a prolonged decline, so he eschewed dialysis and prepared himself for the end.

At a press conference, his physician, Dr. Bill Dunson said, "He had the most incredible health challenges over the last 6 months. I think a lot of that, over the last 30 years of having diabetes, built up until finally, over the last 6 months, the physical part of him finally just gave out. I don't think the mental or the spiritual part ever gave out of Larry Miller".

Here is a short but eloquent biography from the Deseret News story:

Miller was born and raised in Salt Lake City. He graduated from West High School with a 1.77 grade point average, but was also named a National Merit Scholar. He dropped out of the University of Utah after just six weeks. He worked a series of odd jobs for a time before he found a home in car-related businesses. In 1970, he moved to Colorado, where he became a parts manager and eventually general manager for car dealerships in the Denver area. During a vacation visit to Salt Lake City in 1979, he passed a dull afternoon by visiting an old acquaintance in the car business. By the end of the day, he owned his first dealership, purchasing a Toyota store from his acquaintance after writing up terms of the deal on a blank check.

Things happened fast after that. Miller not only became the 10th largest car dealer in the nation, with 42 dealerships in six states, but he also began acquiring other businesses in the coming years. The Larry H. Miller Group eventually included 74 business enterprises — movie theaters, auto dealerships, a world-class race track, a movie production company, an advertising agency, ranches, restaurants, TV and radio stations, a real estate development company, an NBA franchise, a professional baseball team, an NBA arena, a motorsports park, sports apparel stores and various philanthropic organizations. At one time they produced $3.2 billion in sales annually. He turned his CEO duties over to his oldest son, Greg, after suffering the heart attack in 2008.

But it was Miller's involvement with the Utah Jazz which catapulted him to greater fame. In 1985, Miller bought a 50 percent share of the Utah Jazz, then acquired sole ownership a year later. Some believe that Miller's purchase of the team may have averted a franchise move out of Salt Lake City. And it was a good thing - because the Jazz had just added their two greatest players ever, John Stockton and Karl Malone, and were about to reach their greatest heights. This culminated in back-to-back appearances in the NBA finals in 1997 and 1998, but unfortunately against the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.

And the tributes are already pouring in. Two of the most notable are from LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr:

"I was sad to hear of the passing of Larry H. Miller after a valiant battle with ill health. He was a kind, generous man, a great citizen, and friend to the community and his church. In recent years, his generosity included significant underwriting for the 'Joseph Smith Papers' project that is bringing the Prophet's work to life. ... Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Gail, and their family."

— LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson

"Every citizen in our state feels a little empty today. Larry was Utah and Utah was Larry. He inspired many and served countless. We all have been made better by his extraordinary life. Mary Kaye and I wish to express our deepest love and sympathies to his wonderful wife, Gail, and their entire family and wish them a sense of deep condolences at this difficult time."

— Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Public comments posted to the various news stories are universally laudatory. I haven't seen a negative comment yet. One outstanding story of Miller's personal generosity is posted on the KSL website. He hired a man down on his luck to sell cars. The man clearly had little talent for selling, but stuck with it, and Miller would anonymously slip him an extra few bucks from time to time to supplement his meagre commissions. The man ultimately moved on, and is now a success.

Miller is survived by his wife, Karen Gail Saxton Miller, their four sons and one daughter, 21 grandchildren, and one great grandchild.


steel68 said...

There are those who build bridges serving life,society and help elevate existence for the rest of us.Larry Miller! Whites!

Then there are those who deceive,plunder, and leech off those from the above.The destroyers! The Jews!

I think as early as tonights game with the Hornets, it should be called the Larry H. Miller Energy Solutions Arena with the subsequent name added at a later date.

"O shooting star
that fell into my eyes and through my body-:
Not to forget you.To endure."-Rilke

Deseret Dawg said...

Good to hear from you. I was reading through the comments posted to the Tribune story, and one person is so caught up that he wants to re-designate the King holiday as Larry Miller day.

Sounds like a plan to me!