Larry H. Miller
|Larry H. Miller|
Miller speaking at the University of Utah in April 2006
April 26, 1944|
Salt Lake City, Utah
|Died||February 20, 2009
Salt Lake City, Utah
|Resting place||Salt Lake City Cemetery
|Net worth||$480 million (estimate)|
|Website||The Larry Miller Group|
Lawrence Horne "Larry H." Miller (April 26, 1944 – February 20, 2009) was a Utah businessman and philanthropist who was well known as the owner of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s Utah Jazz and of the Salt Lake Bees, a Triple-A Minor League Baseball franchise. Miller and his companies also owned 54 automotive dealerships throughout the Western United States, and a variety of other business ventures, including Prestige Financial Services, Inc., Jordan Commons (a restaurant and entertainment complex), Megaplex Theatres, KJZZ-TV, Miller Motorsports Park, the FANZZ chain of sports apparel stores, the advertising agency Saxton Horne – named after Miller's wife's maiden name and his middle-name, and Vivint Smart Home Arena (formerly known as EnergySolutions Arena or the Delta Center), all of which are still owned by the family's Larry H. Miller Group of Companies (LHM Group).
Miller was born as Lawrence Horne West to Mary Lorille Horne and Howard Hanley West. His parents divorced in 1946, and in June 1948 his mother married Frank Soren Miller. Larry was legally adopted by his stepfather in September 1949 and his last name was changed to Miller.
Following his graduation from West High School, Miller was employed in construction by his uncle, William Reid Horne, until 1964, when he went to work for American Auto Parts. Softball and drag racing, two of his interests, helped launch careers in sports and automobiles. From 1963 to 1970, Miller raced cars, and from 1962 to 1985 he was an outstanding fast-pitch softball player, pitching in the Salt Lake City and Denver metro leagues.
In 1976, he became a parts manager and later manager of the parts and service departments for a Utah auto dealer. In 1970, he moved to Denver to play softball and work as a parts manager for two Toyota dealerships. In 1978, he was promoted to operations manager over five Toyota stores.
Larry H. Miller was a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
Miller married his high school sweetheart, Gail Saxton, on March 25, 1965. They are the parents of five children: Gregory Scott, Roger Lawrence (August 21, 68 - August 18, 2013), Stephen Frank, Karen Rebecca and Bryan Joseph. He was the grandfather of twenty-six grandchildren.
Miller formed a business partnership with William Horne to purchase a Toyota dealership in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray. It opened on May 1, 1979 as Larry H. Miller Toyota. In October 1981, Miller bought out his uncle's share in the business. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, he acquired a number of automobile dealerships in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, creating the Larry H. Miller Automotive Group. In 2007, Selling Power listed him as the tenth largest U.S. automotive dealer, with forty-two dealerships and sales of $13,500,000.
After a failed attempt to start a television outlet on the last remaining VHF frequency in the Utah market, Miller purchased Salt Lake City independent station KXIV in February 1993. He later changed the call letters to KJZZ-TV as a reference to the Utah Jazz.
Miller also owned the Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theatres, Prestige Financial, Miller Motorsports Park, Saxton Horne Communications, Fanzz (a chain of sports clothing & memorabilia outlets), and the Jordan Commons cinema/restaurant complexes along the Wasatch Front. Today there are eleven Megaplex Theaters located in shopping centers, including ten in Utah at the Gateway Mall in downtown Salt Lake City, Jordan Commons in Sandy, The District in South Jordan, The Junction in Ogden, Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Cedar City, Centerville, Logan, St. George, West Valley City, and Vineyard; as well as one in Mesquite, Nevada. Together the theaters total 191 screens. In 2010, the Megaplex at Thanksgiving Point started showing large format movies on the Mammoth Screen.
Miller became a co-owner of the Utah Jazz when he purchased a 50% interest in the team on April 11, 1985 for $9.5 million. On June 16, 1986, he purchased the remaining 50% from Sam Battistone for $17.3 million.
Miller was an unpaid consultant in the project to construct Smith's Ballpark (formerly Spring Mobile Ballpark), now the home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's Triple-A affiliate Salt Lake Bees. He purchased the team in 2005 and changed the name from the Salt Lake Stingers to the Bees.
Miller was also the owner of the Utah Starzz WNBA team (Starzz referencing a former successful ABA team, the Utah Stars and the double-z in Jazz). Miller sold the team in 2002 to San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt who moved the team to San Antonio and renamed them the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Declining health and death
Miller had been in declining health for several years. In June 2008, Miller suffered a severe heart attack, and was hospitalized for 59 days with complications that included kidney failure and gastrointestinal bleeding, which required a blood transfusion. In October, he developed a bone infection and diabetic ulcers on one foot that required outpatient surgery. On January 23, 2009, Miller underwent surgery to amputate both legs six inches below the knee, a result of complications from type 2 diabetes.
On February 20, 2009, surrounded by family at his home, Miller died of complications from type II diabetes. On the day of his death, at a news conference attended by his family and physician, it was revealed that his diabetes was compounded by a rare and incurable disease known as calciphylaxis, which he was diagnosed with just one week prior to his death.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. issued the following statement on February 20, 2009 regarding the passing of Larry H. Miller:
"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."
Jon Huntsman had appointed Miller to chair the Governor's Commission on Strengthening Utah's Democracy in January.
NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a statement on the passing of Miller: “It is with great sadness that I offer condolences to Gail and the Miller family on behalf of the entire NBA family. Larry's legacy extends beyond the NBA as he touched many lives in the Salt Lake City region through his business ventures and charitable endeavors. The NBA lost a great leader, colleague and friend today. We will miss him.”
On February 21, 2009, the Utah Jazz played in Miller's name against the New Orleans Hornets, honoring him with a special ceremony and giving their condolences, and the game ball, to his wife, winning the game 102–88. They also wore a pin depicting the Jazz' first Utah logo for the remainder of the season.
Miller contributed to a variety of causes and organizations, including a $21 million training center for law enforcement and corrections officers, as well as a significant investment towards a campus for Salt Lake Community College, which are both named in his honor.
In November 1995, he formed Larry H. Miller Charities, whose mission statement is, "We give back to our communities by focusing our united service and corporate giving on women and children with an emphasis on health and education." Since its inception, the foundation has raised more than $1 million, distributing those funds to charitable organizations in the communities where the Larry H. Miller Group does business.
His public service was recognized by numerous awards, including the Utah Minuteman Award from the Utah National Guard in 1990, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Utah in 1991, and the Tourist Achievement Award from the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau in 1992.
From 1995 to 2001, KJZZ-TV was a charter UPN affiliate. In October 2000, Miller demanded the right to breach his contract with the network if it increased its "urban/ethnic programming" to more than two hours per week, due to lack of minorities within the Salt Lake Metropolitan. The incident drew nationwide attention, and UPN promptly signed a deal with another station in the Salt Lake City market to carry UPN programming.
Casa Bonita lawsuit
In July 2000, Miller was sued by Casa Bonita, a Lakewood, Colorado restaurant for violation of intellectual property rights and unfair competition. The suit alleged that Miller's restaurant, The Mayan, was a copy of the Colorado eatery. According to the suit, Miller had visited Casa Bonita several times beginning in 1996, and asked to see the books. According to a lawyer representing Casa Bonita, "Tourists will be confused and the distinctiveness of our identification will be blurred."
On January 6, 2006, the film Brokeback Mountain was pulled from Miller's Megaplex 17 theater at the last minute after Miller learned from a radio reporter that the film featured a gay romance. Other R-rated films, such as the comedy Grandma's Boy and the violent horror film Hostel were still allowed to be shown. As a result, the businessman was accused of exhibiting bias against homosexuality.
The cancellation brought international attention to the theater. The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Utah and other gay rights groups urged its members to avoid patronizing Miller's various businesses. Jay Leno joked about the incident on The Tonight Show.
Miller later explained the cancellation, saying that he was concerned about "getting away from the traditional families", what he called "a very dangerous thing." Miller noted that several individuals purchased automobiles from his dealerships as a form of support for the decision. He also expressed regret for any feelings that were hurt as a result.
John Amaechi, a retired center who finished his career with Miller's Utah Jazz in 2003, publicly announced his homosexuality on February 7, 2007. Miller issued a statement the following day, conceding that he had made a bad decision in pulling Brokeback Mountain. He described it as a "knee-jerk reaction" and said that he would probably allow the film to be shown if faced with the same decision again; however he said he was still unsure how he would react to an openly gay player on his basketball team.
Places, buildings, and events named after Miller
- Larry H Miller Campus for Salt Lake Community College
- Larry H. Miller Field
- Larry & Gail Miller Public Safety Education and Training Center — Salt Lake Community College Miller Campus
- Miller Automotive Training Center — Salt Lake Community College Miller Campus
- Miller Corporate Partnership Center — Salt Lake Community College Miller Campus
- Miller Free Enterprise Center — Salt Lake Community College Miller Campus
- Miller Professional Development Center — Salt Lake Community College Miller Campus
- Miller Motorsports Park
- Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah — bicycle race 
- Larry H. Miller Softball Complex
- Larry H. Miller Court at Energy Solutions Arena
- Owners – Larry Miller, Utah Jazz at HoopsHype, accessed 16 May 2007
- Larry H. Miller Dealerships
- Associated Press (January 25, 2009). Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller has Both legs amputated below knees. ESPN. Retrieved March 19, 2012
- http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,705286421,00.html deseretnews.com, February 20, 2009
- "Larry H. Miller, Husband, Father, Grandfather Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Dies at 64". Utah Jazz. February 20, 2009. Archived from the original on February 24, 2009. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
- Pat Reavy, Miller building police training center., Deseret News, July 14, 2005.
- Culture Vulture: Larry H. Miller's cultural dilemmas. Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune. February 23, 2009. retrieved April 12, 2013.
- Mormon News for WE 09Jul00: Jazz owner Miller sued over Restaurant
- Salt Lake Tribune – Miller explains why he chose to pull 'Brokeback' at the Wayback Machine (archived June 4, 2011)
- Lya Wodraska, Miller says he now thinks 'Brokeback' ban was wrong, Salt Lake Tribune, February 8, 2007.